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Trust as comfortable defocusing
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper addresses the conflict between on the one hand the standard view of trust as expectations about the person trusted and about his or her motivations and one the other hand trust as characterised by an absence of thought about the motivations of the trustee. I argue that the standard view provides too much cognitive content into the mind of the truster and misconstrue the phenomenon of trust. The reasons that may motivate the truster to trust and the normative requirements on the truster are not characteristics of trust as such. There is no common set of expectations not even on the motivations of the trustee that applies to all cases of trust.

Instead I shall propose an alternative view of trust that I call trust as comfortable defocusing. On this view what is common to all cases of trust is the tendency to be defocused from the object of trust. Trust releases us from the need to pay mental attention to what has been entrusted. It is the belief that the object of trust is in the hands of another person that brings about a state of comfortable defocus over a matter that otherwise would be of great concern, worry or action. This account argues that to trust is to defocus from the object of trust as long as, and because it is, under the care of another person. It is this delegated agency and defocus that constitutes the nature of trust.

National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5765OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-5765DiVA: diva2:10247
Note
QC 20100713. Manuskript presenterat (men ej publicerat) vid bla. ESPP 2006 i Belfast (23-27 augusti) och The Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association 2010 Joint Session, Dublin (9-11 July).Available from: 2006-05-19 Created: 2006-05-19 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Trust, risk and vulnerability: towards a philosophy of risk communication
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Trust, risk and vulnerability: towards a philosophy of risk communication
2006 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is a philosophical contribution to the theories on risk communication. The topic of risk communication is approached from several different angles, but with a normative focus on equality and vulnerability.

Essay I is a comment on risk perception theory and the psychometric model in particular. In risk perception research individual risk taking is described as either a result of valuing the benefits from risk taking or a failure of comprehending the severity or probability of risks. The essay argues that sometimes individuals take risks simply because they are in a vulnerable position and have no other choice. Four factors are identified as crucial in risks from vulnerability: poor outset conditions, lack of reasonable options, hope and liability to disinformation.

Essay II addresses the democratic approach to risk communication and the ideal of risk communication as a dialogue between more or less equal stakeholders. The Essay argues that even the more innovative and dialogue oriented approaches to risk communication are unequal. This is often blurred by the confusion between the described ideal and the description of these newer approaches. This inequality is analysed in a three-fold way: influence over the communication process; influence over and access to information; and influence over risk decisions. The Essay develops a typology of different risk communication practices and influence distributions and concludes that the form of risk communication most commonly referred in the literature is the most imbalanced kind where all three types of influence falls to the same party.

Essay III explores the concept of trust, an often-mentioned objective for risk communication. The concept of trust is analyzed from previous philosophical approaches, and the idea of trust as comfortable defocusing is introduced. It is argued that not only the gains for the trustee but also the gains and risks for the truster, generally and in the case from risk communication, can be explained by this notion. It is concluded that public trust for institutions or organizations need not be framed on an individual level. Instead, the vulnerability of trusting can be counter-acted by a delegation of different stances, including both control and trust, among different individuals and institutions in society.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2006. vi, 16 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1654-627X
Keyword
Risk communication, two-way communication, democratic approach, equality, asymmetry, vulnerability, trust
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-3979 (URN)91-7178-339-3 (ISBN)
Presentation
2006-05-24, Seminarierummet, Avd. för filosofi, KTH, Teknikringen 78, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101116Available from: 2006-05-19 Created: 2006-05-19 Last updated: 2010-11-16Bibliographically approved
2. Trusting and Taking Risks: a Philosophical Inquiry
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Trusting and Taking Risks: a Philosophical Inquiry
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation is a philosophical contribution to the theories on trust and on risk communication. The importance of trust in risk communication has been argued for and empirically studied since the 80s. However, there is little agreement on the notion of trust and the precise function of trust. This thesis sets out to study both aspects from a philosophical point of view. The dissertation consists of five essays and an introduction.

Essay I is a comment on risk perception theory and the psychometric model in particular. The essay argues that sometimes individuals take risks simply because they are in a vulnerable position and have no other choice. Four factors are identified as crucial in risks from vulnerability: poor outset conditions, lack of reasonable options, hope and liability to disinformation.

Essay II addresses the democratic approach to risk communication and the ideal of risk communication as a dialogue between more or less equal stakeholders. The essay develops a typology of different risk communication practices and influence distributions and concludes that the form of risk communication most commonly referred to in the literature is of the most imbalanced kind where all three types of influence falls to the same party.

Essay III argues that trust can be understood as comfortable defocusing. Trust as comfortable defocusing means that when a person trusts, he or she is comfortable with letting certain things be in the hands or in the control of the trusted other. Departing from this idea a definition of trust is proposed consisting of three elements: (i) the truster’s comfortable defocusing from the trusted person’s part of caring for X, based on a (ii) belief about the trusted person’s care for X, concerning (iii) something of concern to the truster.

Essay IV explores the concept of trustworthiness and under which conditions trust can be betrayed in a morally justified way. It is argued that two aspects are essential for every reasonable notion of trustworthiness: reliability in terms of commitment to trust and predictability in terms of compliance with norms. In order to be untrustworthy in a morally justified way two major conditions need to be fulfilled: first, what is expected from the trustee needs to be either immoral or part of an ongoing immoral or unjust relationship between truster and trustee and, secondly, the trustee must not be in a position to explicitly reject trust.

Essay V examines two of the most employed distinctions within the trust literature, that of trust/confidence and of trust/reliance. These distinctions are evaluated against a set of five criteria. It is argued that both these distinctions are employed to cover several distinguishing properties, thus adding to conceptual confusion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2007. vi, 31 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; 24
Keyword
beliefs, comfortable defocusing, disposition, power, public trust, risk
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4567 (URN)978-91-7178-773-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-12-14, Sal D2, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 5, Stockholm, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100712Available from: 2007-12-07 Created: 2007-12-07 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved

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