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Understanding Trust


Dr. Jan Engelmann

The emotional and neurobiological causes of trust

This sub-project aims at experimentally investigating the neurobiological, cognitive and emotional foundations of trust by means of what is called a „trust game“. Based on the decisions of the test persons this game allows one to measure trust quantitatively. To explore the influence of emotions on decisions we will directly affect emotions, e.g. by presenting subliminal affective stimuli and by other in psychology frequently used emotion induction techniques. We expect that emotions triggered by our experimental manipulations will affect the trust behaviour of the probands. Neuronal networks involved in the behavioural changes triggered by emotions will be explored by functional magnetic resonance imaging. In particular we expect that subcortical areas such as the amygdala and the dorsal striatum are involved at the modulation of the trust decision.

Dr. Thomas Epper

1. Sub-project: The causal effect of society on individual trust

The first part of the project examines the impact of community interaction on individual behavior. Thereby, the main focus lies in the effect of community structures on individual trust and trustworthiness. To study this question, members of an online auction house are invited to participate in a community forum. A control group receives no such an invitation. After a while, one part of the two groups will participate in a trust experiment. It is expected that a larger fraction of the first group will participate in the community forums and that the active exchange with other members will have a direct positive effect on subjects' trust and trustworthiness.

2. Sub-project: Emotional and neurobiological causes of trust

The second part of the project examines the neurobiological and behavioral principles of risk taking behavior as well as trust in social and non-social situations. With help of economic experiments it is  possible to measure individual risk preferences (interaction with a computer) and trust preferences (interaction with other subjects). For a better understanding of the determinants of individual behavior, the plan is to directly manipulate emotions. It is expected, for example, that individuals in fearful situations trust less.

Dr. Barbara Grimpe

The expansion of microfinance into Wall Street Finance (from the 1970s to the present)

The microcredit sector of the “developing countries” underwent remarkable changes from the 1970s to the present. This Post-Doc project focuses on the significant increase of private foreign capital flows to the sector reported for a few years now. This is an interesting development: before, microfinance was often perceived as a matter of social welfare that did not fit the logics of the formal banking system. Many financial experts did not regard the target groups – relatively poor people – as creditworthy. Moreover, microcredit relationships seemed to be too unique to be standardized and hence unprofitable. Global ratings were also unimaginable. However, in the mean time more and more microfinance institutions have been financed by private foreign investors. Microloans are transformed into a new “asset class”. This ongoing reinterpretation of microfinance is studied on two levels, i.e., expert discourse and investment practice, making use of both sociological and anthropological approaches. Looking back to the 1970s, one must ask how this change came about over time? Which economic terms and procedures as well as gender concepts have come into play? The new investors act over long spatial and cultural distances. How is their trust into microfinance built along this way, if at all? The main methods to treat these and other research questions are discourse analysis and qualitative expert interviews.

lic. phil. Mischa Suter

Borrowing, claiming, justifying incurring debts in Switzerland in the 19th century – a history of law and experience

This thesis investigates the social practice of private lending relationships in Switzerland in the 19th century. The investigation puts an emphasis on the period 1830-1870, when crucial juridical, economic and symbolic concepts of liberal capitalism were accentuated. In theveveryday life of borrowing and lending, these concepts encountered highly interdependent persons socially speaking. This thesis investigates  which valuations, classifications and conflicts are related with these changing social relationships. The investigation takes into view the law (understood as a social field of action) and ego-documents and focuses on a specific moment of credit relationships: insolvency. The investigation explores which forms of knowledge occured in the evaluation of values, mortgages and symbolic guarantees and by what means debtors justified themselves. Based on cultural history of foreclosure and on history of experience of private indebtedness  the  thesis attempts to provide a contribution to the historical relation between subjectivity and economy.

lic. theol. Andrea Lassak

Grundloses Vertrauen. A theological Study on Basal Trust and Trust in God

This theological project aims to determine the relation of liminal phenomena. Brought into focus are the so called ‚Grundvertrauen‘ (forms of basal trust) and Christian trust in God. The project starts from the theological concept of trust given by Wolfhart Pannenberg. He was the first theologian in the 20th century who included Erik H. Erikson’s investigations of Developmental Psychology into German Theology and on that basis advocated for a distinct transformative relation between early childhood ‚Grundvertrauen‘ and religious trust in God.

This dissertation first gives an in-depth analysis of Pannenberg’s argumentation. It further examines various theological references to ‚Grundvertrauen‘ and finally advances its own alternative relations between ‚Grundvertrauen‘ and trust in God. With this aim in mind, the study also analyzes various concepts of ‚Grundvertrauen‘ and tries to clarify this opaque phenomenon.
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ingolf U. Dalferth

lic. theol. Marcel Egli

Trust and Gifted Identity. Trust from a Theological Perspective Grounded in the Doctrine of Reconciliation of Karl Barth

This doctoral thesis investigates how the phenomenon of trust can be described within the framework of a strictly theological understanding of reality. Exemplarily, the doctrine of reconciliation as presented by the reformed Swiss theologian, Karl Barth (1886-1968), in his ’Kirchliche Dogmatik’ is searched for viewpoints which can be useful for the description of trust. The investigation follows the assumption that Barth’s Christologically oriented theology can be interpreted as a concrete anthropology. The reconciling action of God is conveyed to humankind through the word of God which is not a reprimand, but an authorization for adequate man’s self-determining in light of his hearing the very Word. The implications of Barth’s theological-anthropological conclusions depend crucially on his dogmatic assumptions. The interdependence of normative assumptions and practical implications is – as the study attempts to show – not only of relevance for theology but for all disciplines  explicitly or implicitly involved in the understanding of humankind. –With the issue of trust as an example, the project contributes  to the thinking about the character of a description of humankind, especially its being here and the being as such (’Da- und Sosein’). Neither does this description monopolize the character of humankind even if it proves vitally helpful.

M.A. Rel.wiss. Arnd Brandl

Between the Task of Reconciliation and Scandals –The Efforts to Gain Trust by the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland.

After a conflict, each society is faced with the need to ensure peace by enabling reconciliatioon and building trust between (former) opponents. Often religious institutions play an important role in this task. This work aims to evaluate and handle the limits and possibilities of this task. The immediate objectives of this work is threefold: After the development of a conceptual theoretical framework which also provides information on the genesis of trust and how to put it into practice, the recent social situation of Northern Ireland shall be reformulated as a problem of trust. Finally, the trust-building measures of a particular actor, the Catholic Church, shall be analyzed in terms of these measures, opportunities, and limitations.

Dr. Johannes Corrodi Katzenstein

Trust, Normativity, Social Knowledge

This sub-project approaches the study of trust from within a social philosophical perspective. It asks how political trust differs from economic, personal, religious and other forms of trust given that the latter plays a constitutive role in all interpersonal and societal types of interaction. The guiding hypothesis is that the social process is in a state of dynamic equilibrium if and when the competencies and structural boundaries of different societal systems or „spheres of trust“ are mutually recognized. Public misuse and loss of trust, on the other hand, can be explicated as an anti-normative infringement of such boundaries by some institution or sphere.

Prof. Dr. Ingolf U. Dalferth/PD Dr. Simon Peng-Keller

Understanding ’Grundvertrauen’? A Hermeneutical and Empirical Exploration of a Liminal Phenomenon of Trust

The concept of ‚Grundvertrauen’ (basic trust) is one of the most popular and likewise most intricate constructs in Psychology, Sociology and today’s Philosophy. Both from an analytical viewpoint and from history of concepts it can be distinguished from a psychological, communicative and existential basic trust. Neither the differences between these three dimensions nor the relationship between them have been considered sufficiently in previous research and hermeneutic reflection. This project assumes, that by a hermeneutic clarification and an empirical verification of the construct ’Grundvertrauen’, a significant gap in the existing research on trust can be closed.

lic. phil. Petra Meibert/PD Dr. Johannes Michalak

Encouragement of ’Grundvertrauen’ by Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) with Patients with Generalized Anxiety Syndrome (GAS)

This project is part of the sub-project „understanding ’Grundvertrauen’“. It has three goals: 1. The main objective of the project is to explore the empirical basis for the concept of ’Grundvertrauen’. To this end, scientific instruments have to be developed to conceive of ’Grundvertrauen’. These instruments are developed in interdisciplinary dialogue with participants of the SNF-research project. 2. In a second step, the effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy of patients with generalized anxiety syndrome shall be examined in a larger, randomized study. MBCT was chosen because, due to the therapeutical principles of this approach, it can be assumed that significant changes regarding ’Grundvertrauen’ are fostered which is likely to be important within the scope of treatment of GAS. 3. In a third step,the results of the investigation shall be discussed within the interdisciplinary research group. In particular, they shall be brought up for discussion  with the hermeneutical research contribution of the sub-project „’Grundvertrauen’ verstehen“.

Prof. Dr. Ingolf U. Dalferth/PD Dr. Simon Peng-Keller/ Dr. Regula Gasser

Communication of Trust in Therapy, Medicine, Education, Management, and Pastoral Care

The project seeks to illuminate how trust is communicated in specific professional relationships. Five professional fields shall be investigated in which developing and maintaining trust in a specific way is of central importance: psychotherapy, medicine, education, business management, and pastoral care. The prerequisites and factors of successful communication of trust are explored in the respective areas, and in cross-disciplinary comparison, similarities and area-specific differences and inherent laws are sought. Special attention will be paid first to the dialectic of trust and the desire for safety; secondly, to the relationship between somatic-symbolic and verbal communication; and thirdly to the role of meta-communicative sequences.
A qualitative empirical study shall examine how trust is communicated in the pastoral bereavement support.

Prof. Dr. Ingolf U. Dalferth/PD Dr. Simon Peng-Keller

Faith, hope, trust - 'Fiducia' as controversial theological quaestio disputata

According to Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon fides is accomplished in fiducia. Faith means to trust in divine promise or to confide in God. From confidence in the presence of salvation grows the hope of final liberation: „Fides est fiducia praesentis promissionis, spes est expectatio futurae liberationis“. The council of Trent criticized this determination for the danger of it enticing persons to „vain confidential faith“ (DH 1533);  instead, Trent  emphasized the cognitive voluntary character of the act of faith. The confessional difference in analyzing faith was for centuries one of the key points of contention of Lutheran-Catholic theological controversy, and it caused discussions in the context of the question of certainty even prior to the joint statement. In view of this fact, the sub-project „Faith, Hope, Trust“ is dedicated to the following questions: Can the traditional contradiction now be considered solved? Which issues remain controversial? How does the relationship between faith, trust and hope stand in the framework of today’s Protestant or Catholic theology? Do insights concerning the various forms of trust taken from current philosophical, psychological, or  various social scientific disciplines contribute to a theological clarification of the idea of trust?