Imagine that you are driving on the motorway at seventy miles an hour in the middle lane, overtaking slower vehicles on one side and cars speeding past on the other. You feel relaxed, listening to the radio, thinking about plans for the weekend. All of this is possible because you’ve placed your trust in the other drivers, in the manufacturer of your car, and in the organisation that maintains the road. You may even trust your Sat Nav. You’re also trusting the learned habits of your brain to drive while your attention drifts in thought. As an alternative, you could travel by train, but then you’re still trusting the train driver and the railway operating company. When you think about it, our society would break down at once if we could not trust one another; social trust is the glue that binds everything together.
Some people find it easier to trust other people than others, which often links back to differences in parental attachment during childhood. Someone with a difficult upbringing may not automatically trust people in the same way as an individual who experienced a safe and secure childhood. Our general level of trust in people can also be damaged in adulthood, if we suffer painful relationships, or are let down by others. On top of this, social trust is also under threat in the fast-moving society we live in. For instance, for many people, the use of misinformation and the bending of the truth has eroded trust in politicians and the media.