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Trust Out of Distrust


  • Edna Ullmann-Margalit


The paper aims to establish the possibility of trust from within a Hobbesian framework. It shows that distrust situations can be structured in two ways, the first referred to as Hard and the second as Soft, both of which are compatible with Hobbes’s stark assumptions about human nature. In Hard distrust situations (which are prisoner’s-dilemma structured) the distrust strategy is dominant; in the Soft variety (which are stag-hunt structured) trust is an equilibrium choice. In order to establish the possibility of trust there is no need to claim that the state of nature is Soft rather than Hard, nor even that Soft is likelier. Game theoretical considerations show that all that is needed to give trust a chance is the ambiguity or uncertainty on the part of the players as to which of the two basic situations of distrust in fact obtains: which game was picked by Nature for them to play.

Suggested Citation

  • Edna Ullmann-Margalit, 2002. "Trust Out of Distrust," Discussion Paper Series dp289, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  • Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp289

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    Cited by:

    1. Marina Bianchi, 2015. "Willingness to believe and betrayal aversion: the special role of trust in art exchanges," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 39(2), pages 133-151, May.
    2. Bac, Mehmet, 2009. "Generalized trust and wealth," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 46-56, March.

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