Judging Strangers' Trustworthiness is Associated with Theory of Mind Skills

Front Psychiatry. 2015 Apr 20;6:52. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2015.00052. eCollection 2015.


Trusting people requires evaluating them to assess their trustworthiness. Evaluating a stranger's intentions is likely to be one method of assessing trustworthiness. The present study tested the hypothesis that judgments of trustworthiness are associated with mind reading skills, also called theory of mind (ToM). We tested a group of healthy participants and a group of patients with paranoid schizophrenia. Both groups made ToM judgments and judged the trustworthiness of strangers. Participants were also assessed for their disposition to trust as well as levels of paranoid belief. As anticipated, healthy participants had a normal ToM scores and patients with paranoid schizophrenia had poor ToM scores. In paranoid patients, better ability to read others' minds was associated with judging others as more trustworthy, while the reverse was found in the healthy participants (better mind reading was associated with judging others as less trustworthy), suggesting a non-linear relationship between trust in others and being able to read their intentions.

Keywords: delusions; paranoia; reading the mind in the eyes test; schizophrenia; theory of mind; trust.