A short review paper in Trends in Cognitive Sciences by Susan Fisk, Amy Cuddy, and Peter Glick really summarizes a body of research that is essential to understanding how psychologists think about trust and how psychologists study trust in this day and age.
What Fisk and colleagues have found over years and years of studies is that we essentially judge people on two dimensions: How warm is this person? So, how benevolent is this person? And how competent is this person? Does this person have the capability of acting on his or her intentions?
And the most interesting finding that comes out of this research is that people don’t treat warmth and competence the same.
People judge these things relatively rapidly; they base a lot of their judgments about whether to approach or avoid another person on judgments of warmth and competence. But warmth tends to predominate our social judgments.
In other words, warmth is the first thing that we judge when we judge another person (competence comes slightly after), and warmth carries the weight of our judgments when deciding whether or not to trust someone.
How can you display warmth, assuming you are a “warm” person in the first place? If that’s not your nature, what skills do you need to become a “warm-er” person?