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Towards a Refined Understanding of Social Trust (T-R-U-S-T)

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Social trust pervades nearly every aspect of our daily lives: it penetrates all human interactions such as personal, patient-doctor, and human-machine relationships; it acts as a psychological driver of human productivity across global economic and political domains; and it defines diagnostic characteristics ...

Social trust pervades nearly every aspect of our daily lives: it penetrates all human interactions such as personal, patient-doctor, and human-machine relationships; it acts as a psychological driver of human productivity across global economic and political domains; and it defines diagnostic characteristics of psychiatric disorders. As a joined effort of psychologists, economists, and neuroscientists, a plethora of investigations have started to gain a deeper understanding of social trust. However, an integration of separate findings from different levels of explanation (i.e., genes, hormones/ neurotransmitter, brain circuits, mental processes, and behavior) into a conceptual neurobiological framework of social trust is still lacking. The goal of the research topic is to provide a comprehensive collection of studies Towards a Refined Understanding of Social Trust (T-R-U-S-T). Researchers and scholars from diverse backgrounds —social cognitive and affective neuroscience, decision neuroscience, developmental neuroscience, cultural neuroscience, neuropsychology, computational psychiatry, and neuroergonomics— are invited to submit original empirical work. Shedding light on our understanding of how social trust is encoded in our brain, examples for pressing, relevant, and timely research questions are:

• The trust game is the most favorited paradigm to measure social trust in dyads. Interactions in an economic context reflect a significant proportion of everyday behavior; however, not all findings might necessarily generalize to other trust situations involving other incentives than money. Can trust be measured with greater ecological validity (other than with the trust game) and how do those measures map onto the identified neurobiological underpinnings of trust?
• Psychiatric patients typically experience difficulties in maintaining trust in relationships. How are diagnoses, clinical and self-report trust measures linked to patients’ real trust behavior and can those measures provide information for diagnostic stratification and novel (or improved) treatment strategies?
• Research has mainly identified the location of single brain regions engaged in trust behaviors (i.e., activation-based framework). But what information is decoded and how is the functional (temporal) and effective (directional) connectivity organized among brain regions of the trust network (i.e., information-based framework)?
• Progress is needed in investigating the neurobiological underpinnings of cross-cultural variability in trust behavior. Are the identified neurobiological mechanisms generalizable beyond WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) cultures from which participants are typically drawn?
• Automated systems (e.g., social robots, artificial intelligence) are increasingly taking on numerous roles in human society. Do human-human and human-automation trust share the same neuropsychological mechanisms and how could this information be used to calibrate human trust in autonomous systems?

Tackling these and other questions, the prospective work utilizes various methodologies, combining behavioral paradigms with functional neuroimaging (e.g., MRI, NIRS, MEG, EEG, ERP) and stimulation (e.g., TMS, tDCS, tACS) methodologies as well as neuroendocrinological, neuropharmacological, and neurogenetic methodologies. The research topic will facilitate, broaden, and improve the current state of trust research, serving as a significant milestone in understanding the neurobiological signatures of social trust. The integrating of findings into a conceptual framework will guide future investigations about the role of trust within given interpersonal relationships.


Keywords: Relationship, Reputation, Trustworthiness, Reciprocity, Cooperation


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