The Science of Trust, John Gottman’s Keynote


“Do you trust me?” What a question to propose to a significant other or a friend. Maybe they’ll respond with “Yes, of course,” but when it really comes down a situation that requires absolute trust, they won’t. John Gottman’s keynote speech, based on research published in his most recent book The Science of Trust, covered the scientific data behind trusting one another—something that’s vital to the success of a romantic relationship, and that impacts so much else in daily life.

“Trust is the number one issue with struggling couples,” Gottman said, “And trustworthiness is the number one most desirable trait.”

Gottman explained that there are vast consequences of having low trust in one another. Today, trust in community and government is declining, and the disparity between the rich and the poor is growing wider. There are even parts of the country in which people have a higher and lower tendency to trust each other—Nevada has very low trust in one another, and Minnesota has more trust in each other. Because of the declining rates of trust, the country seems to be running away from the idea of committed marriages. 

It was fascinating how Gottman was able to provide statistical and scientific data to something that seems so abstract as trust. He explained that he uses the idea of game theory—people will do more of what’s of high value to them—to understand trust. Game theory can be used to compute trust and betrayal metrics.

“‘Trust’ is when someone believes ‘my partner behaves to maximize my payoffs, and ‘betrayal’ is the opposite,” Gottman said.

It’s amazing that, after tracking more than 3,000 couples for more than two decades, his findings aid him in being able to predict with nearly perfect accuracy (94 percent) which couples will stay married and which ones will divorce. Gottman’s new book will provide scientifically backed insight, particularly to couples therapists, in helping struggling couples in therapy.

03.28.2011   Posted In: Symposium Highlights   By Jordan Magaziner
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