The Importance of Being Trusted (Symposium: Trusting Relationships)

Lawrence E. Mitchell, Case Western University School of Law


Trust has become an important area of study not only in law but in the social sciences generally. Most of the work that has been done focuses on the nature of trust and the phenomenon of trusting. This paper looks at the trust relationship from the different perspective of the trusted person. It first examines leading models of trust put forth by Oliver Williamson and Russell Hardin and argues that these models capture neither the experience of being trusted nor the particular virtue of being trusted (as distinguished from being trustworthy.) It then puts forth a different conception of trust. This draws upon the moral psychology of David Hume and Adam Smith, among others, to attempt to understand why the experience of being trusted helps to build social capital not only in the corporate context but in a broader social context as well. The paper concludes with an example drawn from corporate law to illustrate how being trusted both enhances our own trustworthiness and our willingness to trust.