Editor’s Note: This is the fifth post in a six-part series examining the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision that affirmed the legality of treating corporations as persons. Using JPMorgan Chase as an example, Donald J. Munro of the University of Michigan focuses on how certain human moral values and some corporate behaviors are incompatible. You can follow the whole series here.
By Donald J. Munro
Trust is a state of mind in which an individual expects benefits from another person or organization to which she gives something of value, while understanding that the other person could possibly cheat her. For example, a candidate for office may tell me that he will support policy X. I trust him. I believe in his integrity. He gets my vote. But then he is in a position to vote for policy Y, to my detriment. The candidate gets an advantage — my vote — which helps get him in office. But he does not have to give back any benefit to me.
At first, I believe in the integrity of the other person. My trust is enhanced by transparency in relevant actions and in sharing relevant information. Trust is essential for non-coercive relations between the leaders and the led. It promotes cooperation and enables people to have some justified foresight regarding matters of concern. The cooperative behavior is reinforced in part because trust is pleasurable, measured at the objective level by examining the oxytocin and dopamine levels of trusting parties.
Cooperation involves some conformity with group rules, which results in predictable, consistent behavior. Among the reasons people seek it is that is that it reduces stress and provides a sense of being in control of situations. Evidence of this can be found by measuring levels of the hormone cortisol.
Scientists have investigated the association of stress and levels of hormones; they have found elevated levels of cortisol in people who are under stress. Thus they have been able to demonstrate that people engaged in cooperative behaviors have less cortisol — less stress — than people engaged in non-cooperative behaviors, whose cortisol levels are higher than normal. In this sense, cooperation can be said to foster group evolutionary survival.
Can there be a trust relationship when the purchaser of a home loan does not know who owns the mortgage?Click to continue reading »