Running head: BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 1
The Association and Ramifications of Basic Trust as a Conditioned Response
San Francisco State University
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 2
Trust is an innate psychological (as opposed to biological) response that humans have the
aptitude to originally elicit in either the form of basic trust or mistrust. Theoretically, the outcome
of this first psycho-social crisis depends upon the amalgamation of psychological occurrences
revolving around the satisfaction of an infants’ physiological needs. Deficiency of these needs,
such as in malnourished young children, is linked to neurotic, distrusting and paranoid
personality traits in adulthood. It can be argued that Erikson’s basic trust is a response elicited
through the child’s association of trust with the primary caregiver. The trust or mistrust that is
established between the baby and the primary caregiver is then, through operant conditioning,
ramified to pair every stimulus with a degree of safety to develop an underlying trust or mistrust
of the world’s stimuli. Viewing the establishment of trust as a conditioned response allows for a
new perspective when tracing the etiology of neurosis or experimenting with behavioral
Keywords: Basic Trust, Conditioning, Behaviorism, Underlying Trust, Behavioral
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 3
The Association and Ramifications of Basic Trust as a Conditioned Response
“To study psychology without accounting for trust is like trying to live, but forgetting to
breathe” (Erickson, 1950). The behaviorist perspective describes changes in action as a response
to an environmental stimulus (Standridge, 2002). From a behaviorist perspective, basic trust or
mistrust theoretically should be viewed as the original unconditioned response that becomes
paired with that child’s first neutral stimulus, the caregiver. Developing from the first pairing of
basic trust with the mother, it is inferably that a child will then go on to associate a degree of
trust with every item and situation he encounters to develop a cognitive underlying trust. The
necessity of such a cognitive disposition is for security purposes. This conditioning will underlie
all behavior and be essential to every choice the child makes to allow for safety within actions.
Reinforced and responsive caregiving develops a mentality of security as well as confidence for
children in confronting situations that the assistance, protection and care given to the child since
birth will remain with and be available to them (Drury-Hudson, 1994).
The significance of viewing the first pairing of trust as a system of behavioristic
conditioning is not only to make available a new pathway for future testing of cognitive
manipulation revolving around the denoted variables, as many theories of behaviorism lead to,
but as well to open up a new perspective to approach the future testing and experimentation of
the etiology of neurosis, specifically schizophrenia, by studying behavioral development
beginning with basic trust as a conditioned response.
The state of underlying trust can be traced back to its origin within the mother. Through
conditioning, a child will pair this trust to form an accompanying trust or mistrust of the world’s
stimuli. Whilst Winnicott (1967), Klein (1987), and other psychoanalytic theorists considered the
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 4
mother/child relationship as central to security, this paper will use a behavioristic approach to
interpret the mother’s influence over specifically the child's sense and development of trust.
Throughout the duration of this paper vocabulary such as mother and/or father will be
used. This is not always in the sense of conceiver, but as primary caregiver. While ambiguity
often surrounds what constitutes a ‘parent’ or ‘caregiver’, in this manuscript main qualifiers of
such will be any individual that most prominently and originally satisfies the base elements to
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; as the manuscript will revolve heavily around such
satisfactions. This paper deals with the average parent-child relationship when referring to the
bond of basic trust (though as well addressing the psychological disorders produced from
mistrust) and, as with any matter of behavior, there will be a number of unaccountable
circumstances that will have rare contingencies needing specific examination. Also, due to its
development upon the behavioral Law of Effect of Edward Thorndike (1911), its topics are
analogous to many animals that grow up under the same circumstances (i.e., under another’s
care). Animals, however, will not be the focal point of this essay because of the discrepancies
between species. Unless cited or stated as otherwise, the depictions of basic trust as a
conditioned response are entirely theoretical and should be viewed as such.
The Association and Ramifications of Basic Trust as a Conditioned Response
Imprinting as a Primitive Form of Basic Trust
An individual will often develop certain tendencies after recognition of their occurrence
in those he idolizes (Raviv et al., 1996). One may pick up an unpleasant cigar habit when
psychology becomes their intended forte, seeing as this occurred in one of the most iconic and
well revered psychoanalysts, Sigmund Freud. Raviv found that this impersonation, though not in
reference to Freud, may stem from the self-justification that a similar prosperity in life and work
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 5
can be achieved by personally doing as he did. A rationalization that could overshadow the
actuality that this habit ultimately ended Freud’s career (Cohen, 2014). Many companies have
successfully learned to take advantage of this model-mimicking trait by using popular media
figures for endorsement. A phenomenon that originated from a fetal organism’s mental
attachment to its parent, seeing them as a representation of prosperous survival (Giles & Maltby,
2004). Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz (1935) noticed that there is a climacteric after the birth
of specific bird species’ during which they will ‘imprint.’ Though less severe, forms of mental
attachment can be identified during the infantile years of many species, such as humans.
Picking up traits of those idolized is similar to the imprinting of newborn Mallard ducks,
to which Lorenz emulated the mothers quacking. The ducks, viewing and hearing Lorenz as their
mother, began to follow him, innately believing it was in their best interests. This inherent trust
to follow, though occurring during a critical period after hatching, has been more so perfected by
the human evolution. Humans do not ‘give themselves’ to the first anything they see and hear in
their lives, but, evidently, only to that which first actually gives to them.
Learning Through Available Proximity
Jean Piaget recognized that when a child first begins developing cognitively, he relies
heavily upon his sensory abilities. Because of the child’s lack of experience and ability, his
knowledge of what to trust is limited at this point, thus forcing learning to be predominantly
comprised of close physical interactions. To instantiate a relationship of trust between a mother
and an adopted child whom the mother wishes to breastfeed, actions comprised of skin to skin
contact such as frequent carrying, hand feeding, shared sleeping and bathing, and other activities
of increased physical contact are advised (Gribble, n.d.). As care givers are regularly in close
proximity to an un-autonomous child traversing the first stage, acting as the guarding and caring
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 6
force, it is evident that they are the definitive stimulus that a child is able to associate the
response of trust with. Being without a definitive available caregiver to associate trust, such as
those who are hospitalized from a young age, puts a child at extreme risk for the inability to trust
a caregiver (Keck & Kupecky, 2014). Just as well, the more frequent the changes and placements
of caregivers the harder it is for a child to build a relationship of trust, and a belief that they will
be supported and no longer abandoned (Eagle, 1993) (Bowlby, 1944).
The first innate drive a newborn has is for food (Maslow, 1943). This drive works
through an original unconditioned response of sucking. When an item is touched to or around the
mouth integuments of a newborn he will innately turn its head towards the object, root, and begin
sucking as stated by Stanford Children’s Health. Mary Ainsworth (1967) argued just as well that
trusting, in the form of attachment, is just as much of an innate instinct because it occurred
uniformly in all children.
Throughout the duration of human lives, there are sexual drives that are fixated on
specific parts of the body (S. Freud, 1905). Sigmund Freud explained sucking as a way to
assuage this first psycho-sexual drive of an oral fixation. According to Freud, as a newborn,
humans are sexually fixated around the mouth and as well that the libido contains the demands of
the Id, or personality. Because this centralized urge is vexatious for the child, his Id becomes
grateful of that which fulfills it and in extension would factor into the development of the child’s
personality. Mothers with adopted children attest that breastfeeding has been used by their child
to cope with stressful situations, seeing the action as not just supplementary of food, but holds
with it an accompanying physical closeness (Australian Breastfeeding Association, 2013).
Reinforced through time and experience, it can be theorized that the child associates the mother
with the satisfaction of this urge, as well as the child's need for food, thus the child is
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 7
supplemented with a sense of trust in the mother. Therefore, the infant’s first drive of sucking can
be discerned as an unconditioned neutral response of faith that, when continually paired, gives
the child a conditioned trust in the mother.
Abraham Maslow formulated a hierarchy of needs that has multiple layers, though
ultimately consists of two categories; deficiency needs and growth needs. Starting from the base
need, Maslow stated an individual will not advance to a higher need unless the deficient one is
satisfied. The more pertinent the necessity for one of these needs is (e.g. extremely hungry or
thirsty), the stronger the control (Pavlov, 1928). This explanation of human motivation reflects
how conditioning stems from cognitive manipulation due to the appeasement of satisfaction and
the association of that which performed it.
Under certain circumstances, these physiological needs were also used as channels for
alternative needs (Huitt, 2007). One may find himself feeling hungry when actually he is feeling
lonely. This can be seen relationally, when a partner leaves abruptly, the other may turn to eating
to feel a sense of comfort (Locher et al., 2005). There is often visual attentiveness from the child
during suckling and, when met by the eyes of the mother, has been speculated to satisfy a child’s
need for maternal social interaction as well (Blass & Ciaramitaro, 1994) (Paul, Dittrichova, &
Papousek, 1996). In situations with a lack of breastfeeding, hand and bottle feeding are
supplementary and, while lacking the physical interaction, are still satisfactory of the deficiency
needs (Gribble, 2006).
The mother is the first to satisfy the most basic of these needs and the channels that come
with them. Because the child has an innate oral fixation that needs to be satisfied, he sucks on
any item put to his mouth. The child's innate ability to suck in combination with its natural
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 8
neutral trust can theoretically be interpreted to represent why he will give his trust to that which
satisfies his basic needs. This same reasoning explains why malnourishment in young children,
who traverse the basic trust vs mistrust and accompanying sensorimotor stage deficient of these
needs, is linked to paranoid, schizoid, avoidant, and dependent personalities in adulthood (Hock
et al., 2018). A baby that knows very little needs to trust that which presents itself as worthy in
order to survive, as opposed to the Mallard ducks of which followed simply anything they first
saw and heard. Neutral trust is a denomination personally given to the state of basic trust prior to
the establishment of trust or mistrust. This is done fittingly as it is an unestablished(neutral)
response as well as allows for differentiation between the psychosocial timeline (unestablished
Individuals of Underlying Trust Versus Mistrust
Basic trust, being the first of nine defined psychosocial crises stages (E. Erickson & J.
Erickson, 1997), does not solely commence the latter conflicts, but continuously underlies them.
Any path of trust taken influences the psyche through every stage of development. It contains an
intense influence on the being that is not suspended by the succeeding stage, but instead
developed upon (E. Erickson 1950).
The time span of this first stage resembles that of the sponge like mental state of natal
organisms, or the critical/sensitive period (Sylvia 1997). A time most crucial for the creature due
to lack of mental experience coinciding with the necessity to survive. Evolutionarily, this
sustainment is only maintained due to the reliability of previous actions that have also led to
one’s survival or the avoidance of those leading to blight (Schmajuk, 1987). Theoretically,
whether the infant elicits trust or mistrust towards his parents should be seen as depending upon
the outcome of the amalgamation of the prior mentioned infantile psychological occurrences.
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 9
There is no moment for which the establishment of trust can be discerned to because of its
constant associations that began at birth. Therefore, though basic trust may take the defined
prerequisites as the bare minimum to be elicited, for the child to not slip into a mentality of
mistrusting, it is the degree of the maternal relationship that will dictate how the child exits the
crisis (mentally, socially, and physically) (James, 1994).
Even if a child occasionally lacks faith in his mother, the complete absence of basic trust
is an extreme circumstance whose repercussions have been outlined by Erickson as potentially
leading to the mental disorder of schizophrenia. Erickson states:
In psychopathology the absence of basic trust can be best studied in infantile
schizophrenia, while lifelong underlying weakness of such trust is apparent in adult
personalities in whom withdrawal into schizoid and depressive states is habitual. The re-
establishment of a state of trust has been found to be the basic requirement for therapy in
these cases. For no matter what conditions may have caused a psychotic break, the
bizarreness and withdrawal in the behavior of many very sick individuals hides an
attempt to recover social mutuality by a testing of the border-lines between senses and
physical reality, between words and social meanings. (Erickson, 1963, p. 248)
Neutral trust being viewed as an unconditioned response here means that by extension it
has the aptitude to be associated with a plethora of objects and situations that will produce an
underlying trust or mistrust. These ramifications hold the outcome of learning what is
trustworthy and what is not.
When 'taking' one of these two paths (i.e., trusting vs mistrusting), it should be noted
there eventually will come a definitive cognitive dissonance in the child of whether he perceives
the caregiver to trust him (Kostromina et al., 2016). As the actions of the mother are highly
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 10
influential at this age, the child seeing itself through the eyes of his mother as one of the stimuli
to be untrustworthy, is entirely possible. Though the argument here is for the conditioning of
trust through the methods presented, it is the prior mentioned degree of the maternal relationship
that the contingencies of this bidirectional trust factor into.
Just like Erikson, Winnicott (1973) also saw neurosis as spanning from a ruptured
relationship between the child and the mother. Winnicott viewed the 'delinquent child' as looking
for a sense of attachment and acceptance within society. This search, spanning from the child's
failure to find it during the critical years, led to a lack of knowledge of how to behave in a
relationship, and therefore acting disobediently. This attachment shows why well trusting
children (as opposed to mistrusting) can develop to become more resilient and competent adults
Because the counterpart of trust is mistrust with the elicitation of such being just as
plausible, viewing mistrust as an unconditioned response, with the outcome being the same
through the ramifications of operant conditioning, can potentially lead to an underlying mistrust
if not intervened upon. Because the maternal relationship is so crucial to the development of the
child’s trust or lack thereof in the mother, it will either cause the child to successfully continue
with his learning and experimentation of what to trust, or, as Erikson and Winnicott recognized,
will instead lead the child to live a metaphorically crippling life of doubt and distrust, or even
ultimately develop to be a schizophrenic psychopath living a life of lost touch with reality. The
climacteric during which the establishment of basic trust is made holds a severity that has been
further manifested by the social isolation, primate experiments of Harry Harlow (1959). These
effects show how the mother is the most sufficient embodiment of the original and commencing
stimuli of human behavior.
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 11
As all psychological phenomenon, the behaviorist perspective must also have a
reasonable commencement as a neonate is born with relatively little mentality (Streri et al.,
2013). The human evolutionary improvement on imprinting lies within the means by which they
impress upon an adult. It is not just the first object seen or heard that is immediately connected
with, but rather that which earns the trust through fulfillment of basic requirements; stimulation
causes accurate response.
A child first learns by exploring the world using his innate sensory and motor abilities.
The child's lack of available range constricts its exploration to the objects and experiences closest
to him, over time remembering their reinforced permanence and effects. Because trust is merely
confidence and never certainty, flaws in its investment have been evolutionarily perfected, to
some extent, within the human being. The predisposed trust of a human is analogous to the
imprinting of certain poultry. The inborn specificity of human imprinting is the first real test of
conditioning. While at the most vulnerable and primitive state in life, who can be counted on to
The innate drive for the physiological needs such as food, water, warmth (etc.), is
evidential to why they are deemed primary reinforcers, as opposed to conditioned or secondary
reinforcers. Because they elicit the strongest response and can most effectively be paired with
neutral stimuli (Skinner, 1974). This inborn need for food, water and trust shows why the child’s
first sexual fixation is centered at the mouth. The breast, which is discovered to be an extension
of the mother, repeatedly satisfies the child’s oral fixation for the basic physiological needs and
in turn bestows the child’s trust into the mother.
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 12
Because of its indispensability, the impulsive deposition of the neutral trust may lead to
negative repercussions, such as chronic paranoia or jealousy and may even, under extreme
circumstances, lead to mistrusting completely with the result of schizophrenia. Food being the
first necessary drive for a child, who also essentially needs something to trust to survive, brings
into light why that which predominantly reinforces the presentation of food will elicit and
eventually be paired with trust. This as well can be explained by Winnicott’s view of the
delinquent child being in search for something to trust. With hunger, being a lack of food,
inciting a search of nothing but food, a lack of trust (i.e., mistrust) incites a search for
attachment, as something to trust. Therefore, the original caregiver is the first neutral stimulus
and if adequately satisfying these needs, will be associated with trust, and if not, will be
associated with mistrust. The ramifications of this association will lead to an stimulus
underlining of trust or mistrust that will be present during every behavioral aspect of an
individual’s life and can be traced back to its source.
Pt 2. The Development of Underlying Trust
The mother being the original provider, instantiates a bond of trust so pervasive and
strong that its repercussions have an effect on every choice made throughout the child's life as
depicted by Erickson. It can be theorized that through operant conditioning, a child learns what
to trust by remembering the actions and outcomes of his parents and himself to be later used for
reference to increase or decrease the amount of safety corresponding with his decisions and
develop a sense of underlying trust.
Theoretically, basic trust is a response elicited through the satisfaction of the primary
reinforcements at the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow believed that when the
needs are satisfied at the lower levels, the individual loses motivation from them. Because the
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 13
mother has adequately satisfied, and the child has learned how to gain these necessities itself, the
child is able to move on cognitively and motivationally to attempt at his psychological and,
eventually, self-fulfilling needs. In extension, individuals whose basic trust is sufficiently formed
are able to progress to the attempt of achieving less imperative needs, allowing for the
commencement of autonomy, as believed by Erikson. On the other side of the spectrum, JR
Galler et al. found that childhood malnourishment just restrained to the first year of life holds
increased psychiatric and health problems later in life. While regular early malnourishment in
young children holds more dire repercussions during adulthood such as distrustfulness,
heightened anxiety, a lowered sense of self-efficacy, and neuroticism as well as other personality
Using the analog of Harlow’s filial imprinting, the underlying effects of basic trust can be
seen as just as dominant throughout the life of any learner. Such effects are especially obvious
during the years of an infant through expressions of fear given to hostile objects (responding
with untrustworthiness) and intrigue given to unknown object (unknown trustworthiness).
Operant Conditioning in the Expansion of Underlying Trust
B.F. Skinner’s (1938) ideology of operant conditioning explains Piaget’s view of how an
adult’s mind can be so different from that of a child. Piaget’s view of learning through trial and
error mundanely reflects Skinner’s operant conditioning, and analogous to his child-adult
mentality differentiation beliefs, theoretically explains a significant distinction between a child’s
basic trust and an adult’s underlying trust. Through the positive or negative punishments and
reinforcements of certain outcomes, it is evident that humans create a relative general depiction
of what to trust that becomes more elaborate and complex with time. Though a child will first see
its mother as the focal point for what to do and not to do, during a range of experiences of
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 14
reinforcement and punishment, he will come to know much more than just what he has learned
from his mother. From this, the child will enter the succeeding psychosocial stage and, as
Erikson believed, taking along with it what it has learned from the prior stage. A child that
traverses the first psychosocial conflict with the outcome of basic trust may still healthily (i.e.,
non-psychopathically) be operantly conditioned to not trust his mother through what Thorndike
(1911) first termed, behavior modification.
As any other learned response from operant conditioning, basic trust extends farther than
just the mother. The child operantly learns what to trust within the rest of the world
predominantly through ramifications of what he observed the mother trusted (Harris &
Corriveau, 2011). Because of this form of modeling, the child believing that the mother does not
trust him, can cause negative repercussions of security and attachment, with the worst case being
complete mistrust. It can be inferred that observation of the mother’s extensive and repeated trust
in the father in combination with the father’s contributions to many of the child’s physiological
needs as well as seeing him as the greatest supplier of the child’s safety and security needs
(strong, unabusive, protective, etc.) (as present in Maslow’s hierarchy) allows for the child to
associate a trust within the father comparable to, but not as strong as, that within the mother. Just
as well, exposure to the mutualistic relationship of the father and mother working at suppliance
of the child’s basic needs and those of each other allows the child to build a robust trust for the
During the critical period, unless mistrusting, the child is influenced to see the parents as
the cardinals of what to trust and, in extension, learns from their choices, as explained through
Piaget’s sensory motor stage. Because of this the child interacts with the external world utilizing
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 15
the pre-learned responses he has given to the stimuli he already knows (i.e., through parental
observation or self-experimentation), then, as Piaget argued, accommodates or assimilates new
stimuli to give them variations of response. This continuous process occurs for all learning, but
when in reference to a degree of trust being associated, it allows for the development of an
underlying trust or mistrust.
The Occurrence Underlying Trust
The outcome of trust vs mistrust underlies all of behavior. It is rare that one goes into a
crowd and fears for every step he takes and every person he encounters. Even if one had a highly
suspicious relationship with his parents, Winnicott felt that if natural competence was the
outcome, he did not experience mistrust. The way trust underlies is observable due to a lack of
natural constant paranoia. An example of underlying trust that humans have come to naturally
abide by can be seen within the experiment of Solomon Asch (1951).
Where the relevance of Asch’s experiment lies has been utilized everywhere from
experimentation to education and even the film industry. A random subject’s credulous. While
the malleability of the Asch’s participants’ underlying trust, as well as the examples given, will
be elaborated on later, it should be stated that the existence of this credulous is just as apparent in
the very researchers of the same experiment. This is because at any time the participants could
have made an obstructively irrational decision that was never meant to happen nor accounted for.
This is evident because humans have a natural inclination to believe in their consistent personal
well-being, as the constraint of constant paranoia would be disadvantageous to survival. On the
side of mistrust, the persecutory delusion (i.e., persecution complex) is most commonly
associated with schizophrenia (specifically paranoid schizophrenia) (American Psychiatric
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 16
Association, 2013), a disease of which has the most efficient mediation, as prior stated by
Erickson, through re-attachment with the mother.
Exploiting Underlying Trust
Underlying trust has evolutionarily been advantageous, but it is undeniable that the
exploitation of this inclination is occurrent. Movies, for example, can beguile their viewers by
merging and reconfiguring underlying trust to make believable that which is watched. This is
because that which is trusted is highly influenced by what has come to be learned. Therefore,
when a movie is watched with prior more extensive knowledge than that which is present, it is
easier to see its inadequacies.
When a movie is watched without a preconceived notion, it is easier to be deceived due
to the feeling of complete awareness that the movie has presented. A more specific example can
be seen from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. During the movie Samuel L. Jackson, playing Jules
Winnfield, can be quoted first asking the man he is interrogating if he reads the Bible then
reciting the passage of what he claims to be Ezekiel 25:17. Though the citation is a real bible
verse, what Winnfield goes on to orate has little to no resemblance to the Biblical text. One will
go into the scene knowing the movie is fiction, as the name makes obvious, yet small deceptions,
such as this, are not expected. Analogous to a coffee shop being entered with a wallet, due to a
lack of expectancy or suspicion, there is no reason to anticipate disorderly conduct such as the
presence of a pick pocketer. But because a coffee shop is entered appearing to be sound and
comfortable, while the line in the movie holds allusions such as ‘the Lord’ or ‘The path of the
righteous man’ and contains ornate archaic phraseology, all being expected of a passage out of
the Bible, neither the movie scene nor the shop raises suspicions. These factors allow for
duplicity to go on unbeknownst to the victim.
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 17
Trust can be affected by many variables, such as the movie being riddled with
inconsistencies throughout, or said line regarding phraseology with no obvious relation to the
Bible. If prior to the film scene one had become aware that it holds false information within it or
before purchasing a coffee one had in fact been robbed, both situations will most likely (whether
subconsciously or not) be entered on guard. After the prior stated factors about the film are
experienced, knowledge of the degree of trust to associate with the movie becomes reduced and
is then utilized in between the stimuli of the movie, and an individual’s response to it.
The previous analogies pertained specifically to temporary films, but information and
lack thereof advances and deceives underlying trust constantly during everyday life, allowing for
the formation of general awareness. A familiar teacher may walk by in a supermarket
unbeknownst to their student, a concept that has become deemed as the context effect or more
specifically, because of lack of expectancy from the student and his context dependent memory
(Smith & Vela, 2001). The teacher has become paired with the school system and making this
unexpected appearance has caused the student’s mind to not notice her whatsoever.
Analogous to Pulp Fiction, this psychological paper uses a quote from a well-known
psychologist to hook its readers at its beginning. Whether Erik Erikson made a statement about
the relationship of trust to psychology has no impact on this paper. Because the quote pertains to
the main topic being addressed and holds no real influence over the credibility of the paper, for
one’s underlying trust, questioning its integrity is unnecessary even for a brief second and in
extension is, unless suspicion is aroused, not done. This is to show that all situations are entered
trustingly as opposed to mistrusting or skeptically.
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 18
The relevance of the Solomon Asch experiment is found in the results of learning about
the malleability of intrinsic trust or self-confidence with the outcome of conformity. Though
fluctuating with the addition of multiple variables such as the presence of a true partner, the
preeminent part of the experiment resulted as such. Asch found that many subjects will change
their answer during a simple identification task when they begin to lose self-confidence due to
the opinions of others. The Asch experiments illustrate the volatility of confidence, or a trust in
one’s decisions, theorized by Albert Bandura (1982) denoted self-efficacy (Stajkovic & Luthans,
The debriefing after Asch’s Conformity Experiments found that those respondents who
conformed to at least half the trials felt a “distortion of perception”. When they noticed the
majority all giving an answer, though wrong, the responders truly saw it as the right answer. This
psychological breakthrough on the distortion of perception based on confidence extends the
imperative role trust has to more than just behavior. Because the participants that conformed on
at least half the trials used prior experience to dictate their future decisions, they ended up being
misled, and in turn, obliviously conforming due to an evident misplacement of trust. During the
evaluation, the prior experience was the dependent viewing an obviously correct response from
the majority. This caused the dependent to, whether subconsciously or not, accord the majority
For most of the participants who yielded on some trials, Asch noted that though they did
not experience distorted perception, they felt a “distortion of judgment”, from not completely
believing the majority was right, but still questioning themselves.
The second and most frequent reason the conformers did so, was because of a high
misplacement of trust within their misleading colleagues due to the use of prior knowledge that
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 19
their associates were always right on these rudimentary tasks, in combination with the possibility
of indolent. Underlying trust is seen within the participant’s lack of suspicion of which the
researchers took advantage, the manipulation of this trust caused the result of conformity in
minority from the effects of the group’s behavior.
The Development of Credulous
An interpretation of Stanley Milgram’s (1963) electric shock experiments shows the
flaws and occurrence of the ramifications of basic trust after the parents. Trust is an association
that is learned through conditioning. Underlying trust explains why Don Mixon (1971, 1972) felt
that it was the participants misplaced trust in the experimenter that was the key to the deceit.
Through the aforementioned methods the child learns to trust the father and then the rest of the
world. Milgram’s electric shock experiment shows the simple associations humans make to
deem a person trustworthy.
It can be theorized that doctors, dentists, and authority figures alike are mentally
established as more trustworthy than the average person through experiences such as parental
verbal reinforcement, knowledge of their education, or encounters with their abilities. Over time,
mentality develops to give a type of person who appears to be professional in word, deed, or
simply appearance, compliance because of the reinforced belief that they are well enough
experienced in their professions to be reliable (Blendon, Benson, & Hero 2014). Blendon and his
colleagues argue that this rationale is beneficial because more often than not, on average, those
who appear to be professional maintain that disposition. The extension of underlying trust is
much broader than just a rat being taught to pull a lever upon the illumination of a light. The
abuse of this natural sense of trust has been pervasive throughout history, appearing everywhere
from the Catholic Church, to the very event Milgram was attempting to elucidate, Nazi Germany.
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 20
Trust in Education
The prior scientists and experiments mentioned would not have been so had they not
made their grandiose impact through their work. Their work would have no acknowledgement
had it not been revolutionary or had their education not been of the best. Children learn to
believe everything their educators proclaim because of the mental association of credibility that
began from the elementary age (Goepel, 2012). This association can be interpreted as being
reinforced because the child saw the mother, the one containing the strongest trust from child,
being associated with the teacher and his words.
The debate over the efficacy of education has been deliberated over for centuries due to
its flaws and successes. The extensive pattern of trusting that which the parent trusted can be
most prevalently recognized throughout the history of education. Those who went against this
pattern have been noted as heretics, witches, and some of the most influential people in history.
Galileo Galilei is a highly regarded individual remembered for his advanced ideas going against
those of the occurring sovereignty and in turn being condemned for them in 1633 as documented
by Maurice Finocchiaro (1989). Prior to Sir Isaac Newton’s (1887) Philosophiæ Naturalis
Principia Mathematica, gravity was seen, and blindly believed by most as an object’s return to
its natural place by Artistotle (Hussey, Kostri 1983), the most prominent thinker of the time due
to his works and ideas.
From Mixon and Milgram’s interpretation of the electric shock experiment, had any of
the latter’s participants grown up in a world without doctors or officials, the outcome of their
response would have been contrary to that of their obedient counterparts. Therefore, one who has
yet to hold credible achievement deserves to still to be acknowledged because those like
Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, and Sigmund Freud at one point lacked discoveries of
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 21
Hierarchal Needs, Psychosocial stages, or Psycho-analytic practices. When accrediting these
prior mentioned authors, it is necessary to view their works with skepticism and from different
angles because even they may hold scientific blunders, such as gravitational attribution or
It should be theorized that the first association (trust vs mistrust) became bifurcated
through necessity, being the sole knowledge, the child had come to obtain in reference to safety.
While the apparentness of underlying trust has been explained it evidentially goes unnoticed in
everyday life likely due to a sensory adaptation analogous to acknowledgement of one’s nose
though it is always in sight, leading the trust to be denoted as underlying or subconscious.
The extent to which underlying trust can be manipulated is also a reasoning for why
questioning is constantly necessary. Solomon Asch and Stanley Milgram’s experiments represent
exactly how effortlessly mental trust can be manipulated and exactly why no individual should
be too expeditious to trust.
Underlying all decisions is a necessary ramification of the pairing of the neutral trust that
originally occurred between the child and his mother, which developed through conditioning into
an elaborate association of each object with a degree of trust. Viewing trust as the original
ramifying response of any child explains the natural sense of safety of most humans who, when
young, elicited basic trust, as well as the sense of paranoia of humans who elicited basic mistrust.
BASIC TRUST AS A RESPONSE 22
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