Trusting Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

In other news, Dartmouth researchers have discovered that in fact, people are far sillier with their money than was previously thought. Or at least, in deciding who to give their money to. Researchers from the College as well as University College London and Warwick Business School conducted a study to determine how human beings decided who to trust and who not to trust.

With one hand, the scientists used a computer program to create 20 faces of potential investment managers which were then shown to the participants in the study. Some were designed to seem more trustworthy than others, according to past research of human instinctual responses to the shapes and features of faces. With the other, the researchers provided information about the reputations of each of the possible investment managers. Some were given good reputations, others bad.

 But he seemed like such a nice guy…

Yet, their reputations had no impact upon the decisions made by the participants. Again and again, humans chose to give money to those with trustworthy faces even if they had bad reputations. The trustworthy faces received an average of 6% higher investments. Apparently, trust, if not beauty, is skin deep. Perhaps all of those studious Economics majors and would-be finance gods at the College would do well to take note that at the end of the day, it will all come down to what they look like. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if plastic surgeons began taking out ads on Wall Street, promising to make them look far more trustworthy. One wonders what the results would have been like if the researchers could have included the worth of a firm handshake.  


–J.P. Harrington