Trust Dilemmas and Attention

posted by eric

One of the basic concepts in trust theory is something called a Trust Dilemma. In short, it’s the problem of evaluating the risk one takes in trusting that an actor that will act in a certain way. In a more formal analysis, trust dilemmas are intimately related to game theory concepts such as Stag Hunts and the Prisoner’s dilemma.
Philosopher Annette Baier captures the essence of the dilemma beautifully when she attempts to describe trust:

“One leaves others an opportunity to harm one when one trusts, and also shows one’s confidence that they will not take it. [...] Trust, then, on this first approximation, is accepted vulnerability to another’s possible but not expected ill will toward one.”

Trust dilemmas seem to play an integral part in attention economies. When deciding how we should direct our attention, we are essentially faced with a continuous stream of trust dilemmas. There’s a constant evaluation process going, where we have to decide which sources to trust, with the varying risk of losing time on things that aren’t relevant to us. On the web, we’re faced with a “mini” trust dilemma almost every time we follow a link.

July 18th, 2006

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