Do you often put your trust in others? If so, you are likely to be of high intelligence. New research from the University of Oxford in the UK suggests that intelligent individuals are more likely to trust other people, compared with those who are less brainy.
The research team, led by Noah Carl of the Department of Sociology at the university, recently published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.
For their study, the investigators analyzed data from the General Social Survey (GSS) - a public opinion survey that a sample of adults in the US complete every 1-2 years.
The survey asks participants questions regarding their socioeconomic characteristics, behaviors and social attitudes.
The researchers note that data from the survey has been used in past research to assess generalized trust and intelligence, but this study is the first to use the data to determine the relationship between the two.
As part of the survey, participants' intelligence levels are measured through a 10-word vocabulary test and an assessment that determines how well participants understood the survey questions.
Intelligent people are 'better judges of character'
Researchers say intelligent people may be more likely to trust others because they are better judges of character and can identify people who are likely to betray them.
The researchers found that participants who scored highly on measures of intelligence were more likely to trust others, compared with those who had low scores on intelligence levels.
This finding remained even after the team accounted for the participants' socioeconomic characteristics, including marital status, education and income.
Explaining potential reasons for this finding, the investigators say that smarter individuals are better judges of character, so they tend to develop relationships with people who are less likely to betray them.
Intelligent people also tend to be better at weighing up situations, according to the researchers. Therefore, they are able to identify a strong incentive for the other party to stick to their side of an agreement.
Commenting on the study results, Carl says:
"This finding supports what other researchers have argued, namely that being a good judge of character is a distinct part of human intelligence which evolved through natural selection.
However, there are other possible interpretations of the evidence, and further research is needed to disentangle them."
Trust linked to greater health and happiness
Past research has shown that people who trust others seem to report greater health and happiness.
But in this study, the team's findings revealed that the associations between trust and health, and trust and happiness, are not explained by intelligence.
"They therefore strongly suggest that previous studies have not overestimated the impact of generalized trust on health and well-being," the study authors write.
The research team says their overall findings show that generalized trust is a valuable social resource. It plays a part in the success of social institutions, such as financial markets and welfare systems, and is a quality "which governments, religious groups and civic organizations should strive to cultivate."
The investigators conclude that further research should focus on unraveling exactly how generalized trust improved people's health and well-being.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that the length of a relationship determines which brain region we use to make decisions, such as whether to trust someone.