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Aversions to Trust


  • Anne Corcos
  • François Pannequin
  • Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde


In this article, we focus on two types of “aversion” which we deem essential aspects of the notion of trust: betrayal aversion (social) and ambiguity aversion (a special case of aversion to uncertainty). Based on trust-games studies in experimental economics and neuroeconomics, our main goal is to assess the conceptual, behavioral and neurobiological connections between betrayal and ambiguity aversions. From a social and individual psychological point of view the bottom line of our trusting behavior could be our general aversion to ambiguous signals. We approach social trust in the terms of a phenomenon based on uncertainty aversion. Specifically, a reduction of the perceived uncertainty of a social interaction tends to build up a trusting climate conducive to trade by decreasing betrayal aversion. We hypothesize that betrayal aversion and ambiguity aversion bear such a negative correlation. Focusing on this potential negative correlation our approach clearly differs from more positive accounts of trust centred on altruism. JEL Classification: C72; C91; D03 ; D87.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Corcos & François Pannequin & Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, 2012. "Aversions to Trust," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 78(3), pages 115-134.
  • Handle: RePEc:cai:reldbu:rel_783_0115

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sujoy Chakravarty & Jaideep Roy, 2009. "Recursive expected utility and the separation of attitudes towards risk and ambiguity: an experimental study," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 66(3), pages 199-228, March.
    2. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2008. "Trusting the Stock Market," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(6), pages 2557-2600, December.
    3. Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2010. "Distinguishing trust from risk: An anatomy of the investment game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-2), pages 72-81, May.
    4. Schechter, Laura, 2007. "Traditional trust measurement and the risk confound: An experiment in rural Paraguay," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 272-292, February.
    5. Sacha Bourgeois-gironde & Anne Corcos, 2011. "Discriminating strategic reciprocity and acquired trust in the repeated trust-game," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 31(1), pages 177-188.
    6. Cox, James C., 2004. "How to identify trust and reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 260-281, February.
    7. Bohnet, Iris & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2004. "Trust, risk and betrayal," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 467-484, December.
    8. Daniel Ellsberg, 2000. "Risk, Ambiguity and the Savage Axioms," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7605, David K. Levine.
    9. Anne Corcos & François Pannequin & Sacha Bourgeois-gironde, 2012. "Is trust an ambiguous rather than a risky decision?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(3), pages 2255-2266.
    10. repec:hal:journl:ijn_00734563 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Kanagaretnam, Kiridaran & Mestelman, Stuart & Nainar, Khalid & Shehata, Mohamed, 2009. "The impact of social value orientation and risk attitudes on trust and reciprocity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 368-380, June.
    12. Camerer, Colin & Weber, Martin, 1992. "Recent Developments in Modeling Preferences: Uncertainty and Ambiguity," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 325-370, October.
    13. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
    14. Olsen, Robert A., 2008. "Trust as risk and the foundation of investment value," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 2189-2200, December.
    15. Eckel, Catherine C. & Wilson, Rick K., 2004. "Is trust a risky decision?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 447-465, December.
    16. Berg Joyce & Dickhaut John & McCabe Kevin, 1995. "Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 122-142, July.
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    More about this item


    trust game; betrayal aversion; ambiguity aversion; neuroeconomics;

    JEL classification:

    • D87 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Neuroeconomics


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