09/25/2013 12:00 pm ET

The Surprising Link Between Trust And Racism


Whether we’re socializing or flirting or hawking our old furniture online, we want others to trust us. At work, in open-plan offices with flattened org charts, we work not for bosses, but in teams; we need to be able to rely on our co-workers’ abilities and integrity with the same assuredness with which we trust-fall into their arms on the annual retreat.

It turns out there’s something to be said for distrust, though, and not just in dealing with con men or strangers with candy. A new paper by psychologists at Harvard and the University of Cologne suggests that a healthy dose of distrust is an antidote to racism, sexism, and other forms of stereotyping. A mistrustful person, the researchers found, is a less biased one.

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