Stranger danger has been poisoning generations of kids. They are taught to distrust pretty much everyone who isn’t their mom or dad. If they’re ever lost, they are told not to ask the nearest person for help (God forbid!), but to hunt for a mother with children, or perhaps a police officer. I guess a pregnant police officer would be the jackpot.
But now comes an admittedly tiny study suggesting that people who trust people are the luckiest, or at least the most discerning, people in the world. (Try singing THAT, Barbra). Rather than getting duped again and again, they seem more able to figure out when they’re really being lied to, and give everyone else — the vast majority of folks — the trust they deserve.
As the PsyBlog reports:
We intuitively believe that being cynical is an advantage in detecting lies. Or so Nancy Carter and J. Mark Weber found when they asked a group of MBA students whether people high or low in trust would be better at detecting lies in others (Carter & Weber, 2010).
The results were as we’d expect: 85% thought low trusters are better than high trusters at lie detection.
But Carter and Weber weren’t completely convinced that cynics area the winners when it comes to seeing the truth.
…so they measured how trusting 29 participants were and had them watch videos of a staged job interview.
In these videos, interviewees had been told to do their best to get the job, but half were told to tell three lies in the process.
These videos were then shown to participants who rated the honesty of the interviewees, along with how likely they would be to hire them.
Surprisingly, it was those highest in trusting others that emerged as the superstar lie detectors. High trusters were more sensitive to deceit and more accurate at detecting which of the interviewees were lying.
Now imagine we start raising kids to never trust their gut — always assume the worst. Why, you’d get people afraid to open the door. Cops being called when a stranger hands kids a cake from his car. The media reporting suspicious “incidents” (complete with maps) when nothing actually happened, or warning parents about men in vans when the men (and the vans) were not doing anything wrong.
In other words, you’d get a society that it would over-react to almost anything and anyone.
Bottom line? Teaching kids that the world is mostly a good place, with mostly good people will help them more than teaching them the opposite. Giving others the benefit of the doubt is a smart, safe way to live. -L