Trust is heritable, whereas distrust is not

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33 Scopus citations


Why do people distrust others in social exchange? To what degree, if at all, is distrust subject to genetic influences, and thus possibly heritable, and to what degree is it nurtured by families and immediate peers who encourage young people to be vigilant and suspicious of others? Answering these questions could provide fundamental clues about the sources of individual differences in the disposition to distrust, including how they may differ from the sources of individual differences in the disposition to trust. In this article, we report the results of a study of monozygotic and dizygotic female twins who were asked to decide either how much of a counterpart player's monetary endowment they wanted to take from their counterpart (i.e., distrust) or how much of their own monetary endowment they wanted to send to their counterpart (i.e., trust). Our results demonstrate that although the disposition to trust is explained to some extent by heritability but not by shared socialization, the disposition to distrust is explained by shared socialization but not by heritability. The sources of distrust are therefore distinct from the sources of trust in many ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7007-7012
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017


  • Behavioral genetics
  • Cooperation
  • Distrust
  • Experiments
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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