Trust can be a habit, study says
What makes you more likely to trust someone after a betrayal?
by Gena Kaufman
In the wake of betrayal, it can be hard to understand how one partner can forgive the other and let things go back to normal. But here's an explanation of what may make a person more likely to trust again.
In a study at Stanford University, researchers found that betrayal affects people differently depending on the length of the relationship. If you are betrayed early in a relationship, your brain makes more careful decisions about trusting that person in the future. But if you are betrayed later in a relationship, you are more likely to forgive as a habit.
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In an experiment, participants were paired with a "partner" (actually a computer program) and given $8. They could keep the money or give it to the partner. If they gave it to the partner, the value tripled, and the partner could then decide whether to keep it all or give half back to the original participant. If the partner betrayed the participant early on by keeping all the money, the participant took more time to make a decision and was more likely keep the money in the future.
But for those whose partner betrayed them later in the game, brain scans revealed increased activity in the part of the brain associated with habitual decision making, so the participants were more likely to trust their partners again.
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If trust becomes a habit, does that mean you're more likely to be able to repair a relationship with someone who betrays you after a long period together? It's interesting to consider in the context of romantic relationships. On the one hand, if you've been together longer, you may have more invested in the relationship in addition to being in the habit of trusting that person, which could make it easier to forgive and forget. On the other hand, wouldn't you feel even more betrayed by someone you'd spent so much time with?
Have you ever been betrayed by a person you trusted? Could you ever trust that person again?
Photo: Ragip Candan/Getty Images
there will always be doubts from then on. the relationship will never be the same. dump 'em
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