Overall Project

»Understanding Trust. Foundations, Forms and Limits of Trust«

Trust is a basic phenomenon of human life that has stood in the center of attention in a number of disciplines for some time. On the one hand, human life in its individual and its institutionalized forms is impossible without trust (humans need trust), while, on the other hand, crises of trust are increasingly spoken of in many areas of private and public life (trust is lost). Many individual problems, however, remain unclear and controversial, The fact that solutions for these problems are still sought either mainly or only within individual disciplines stands factually and methodically most unsatisfactory of all.

Aims and Methodology

The researchers participatingin the project „Understanding Trust. Foundations, Forms and Limits of Trust“, share the conviction that this complex phenomenon is, in an exemplary manner, a trans-disciplinary problem. In fact, solutions to its problems can only be worked out through focused collaboration between different disciplines and methodological approaches. Questions of neurology or behavioral research are not the same as those in history, psychology or theology. These disciplines, however, all work on the problem of trust. This obviously suggests a close cooperation between these disciplines which benefits the project both substantially and methodically. So far, such cooperation has been achieved only occasionally and bilaterally, but without programmatic, multidisciplinary, and methodical controls in place. For the project it is methodologically crucial that the disciplines involved shall not only benefit from each other in their mutual reception of results, but in the ordered and cooperative pursuit  of knowledge right from the beginning. We expect that, in this way, a coherent understanding of trust can be developed that accounts both for trust’s biological origins and natural foundations and for its social instantiations, institutions, and problems (trust, distrust, mistrust). We do this, in order to determine more precisely the limits of reasonable trust, mistrust and distrust.

This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Mercator Foundation Switzerland.