The Neuroscience of Trust


What makes two people trust each other? In this HBR article, Paul Zak, a Neuroeconomist, explores the science behind trust and shares with us the remarkable and numerous benefits of employees in high-trust organizations. Find out: does trust really foster joy?

What You’ll Learn

After completing the work on this page, you will be able to:

  • Comprehend what’s happening in the brain when you trust someone
  • Recognize the incredible benefits of working in a culture of trust
  • Recall eight factors that cultivate an environment of trust

Read the article, “The Neuroscience of Trust.”

NOTE:  There is a limit of viewing 4 online articles per month at Harvard Business Review without a paid subscription.  If you click on the link to this article, it will count toward your limit.

Dig Deeper

After reading the article, reflect on the following questions.  Jot down your thoughts.  Consider sharing this video with a colleague or a work group for an insightful discussion.

  1. Think of two people, one you trust and another you don’t. Compare how you interact with these two people. What benefits are in play with the person you trust? What are the downsides with the person you don’t trust?
  2. Think about your workplace. On a scale of 1 to 10 (lowest to highest), rate the level of trust in your workplace. How does this level of trust affect you personally? How does it affect your team? The organization?
  3. Considering the eight dynamics that promote trust, which are in play at your workplace? Which one(s) are missing? How does this relate to the score you gave on the level of trust in your workplace?
  4. List one way you can improve trust at your workplace. Try it out for a week. Reflect on the results.

Still Hungry?

Here’s more to spark your thinking on this topic:

  • Trust is a critical component of employee engagement, productive teams, and a joyful workplace. Learn more about the importance of trust in this 5-part Harvard Business Review series Broken Trust which starts with the article “The Trust Crisis” and is followed by 4 additional articles:
    • Leading with Trust
    • How Our Brains Decide When to Trust
    • When Innovation and Trust are at Odds
    • The Elements of a Good Company Apology
  • Trust is a strong indicator of personal, professional, and national happiness. So how do we develop more? Learn how in this Experience Life article “Why Trust Matters and How to Build More of It.”
  • The triangle of trust is composed of three drivers: authenticity, logic, and empathy as explained in the HBR article Begin with Trust.

Note: When you open the first article, you will be able to scroll to the others at the top of the screen.

Write a Review

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  2. This is one of the most memorable articles we looked at in GOAL. I refer back to it time and time again, and have printed out and posted Zak’s list of trust-cultivating factors on the conference room wall. Good stuff!


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