Trust is heritable, whereas distrust is not

Oliver Schilke
Martin Reimann
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

Social scientists have devoted much attention to studying the sources and consequences of the disposition to trust but have only recently begun to investigate the disposition to distrust. An increasing consensus is emerging that distrust is not merely the opposite of trust. This article provides initial empirical evidence indicating that the sources of the dispositions to trust and distrust indeed do differ in important ways. Notably, although both trust and distrust are strongly influenced by the individual’s unique environment, interestingly, trust shows significant genetic influences, whereas distrust does not. Rather, distrust appears to be primarily socialized, including influences within the family. These findings provide new support for the bidimensionality of trust and distrust by demonstrating their distinct antecedents.