Another victim of violence: Trust in those who mean no harm

April 26, 2019

New Haven, Conn. - Exposure to violence does not change the ability to learn who is likely to do harm, but it does damage the ability to place trust in "good people," psychologists at Yale and University of Oxford report April 26 in the journal Nature Communications.

More than 80% of youth in urban areas experienced violence in their communities in the last year, and those experiences have a profound effect on their health, the researchers say.

"We know exposure to violence is related to negative life outcomes, from increased health and mental health problems to greater engagement in violent behavior, but there is very little research on understanding the underlying cognitive processes that might be affected by this life experience," said Yale psychologist Arielle Baskin-Sommers, co-senior author of the paper.

Baskin-Sommers, her Yale colleague and co-senior author Molly Crockett, and graduate students Jenifer Siegel and Suzanne Estrada evaluated 119 males incarcerated in Connecticut prisons, some of whom scored high on exposure to violence. Participants learned about two strangers who faced a moral dilemma: whether to inflict painful electric shocks on another person in exchange for money. While the "good" stranger mostly refused to shock another person for money, the "bad" stranger tended to maximize their profits despite the painful consequences. The participants were asked to predict the strangers' choices, and later had to decide how much trust to place in the good versus the bad stranger.

The team found that participants with higher exposure to violence effectively learned that the good stranger made fewer harmful choices than the bad stranger. However, when deciding whom to trust, they trusted the good stranger less than participants who had a lower exposure to violence.

"In other words, exposure to violence disrupted the ability to place trust in the 'right' person," said Siegel, an Oxford doctoral student and first author of the paper. "We also saw that this disruption led to a greater number of disciplinary infractions within the prison setting."

Crockett said the findings suggest that exposure to violence changes the way people use information they've learned to make healthy social decisions.

"Social flourishing depends on learning who is likely to be helpful vs. harmful, and then using that information to decide who to befriend versus avoid," she said. "Our research suggests exposure to violence impairs this crucial aspect of social functioning."

Baskin-Sommers added, "The combination of exposure to violence and this specific cognitive disruption may leave certain individuals vulnerable to continually developing problematic social connections that limit their chances for psychosocial and economic stability."

The research was partially funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Academy of Medical Sciences.
-end-


Yale University

Related Violence Articles from Brightsurf:

Combined intimate partner violence that includes sexual violence is common & more damaging
Women who experience sexual violence combined with other forms of intimate partner violence suffer greater damage to their health and are much more likely to attempt suicide, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Bristol's Centre for Academic Primary Care published in the International Journal of Epidemiology today [12 November 2020].

As farming developed, so did cooperation -- and violence
The growth of agriculture led to unprecedented cooperation in human societies, a team of researchers, has found, but it also led to a spike in violence, an insight that offers lessons for the present.

The front line of environmental violence
Environmental defenders on the front line of natural resource conflict are being killed at an alarming rate, according to a University of Queensland study.

What can trigger violence in postcolonial Africa?
Why do civil wars and coups d'├ętat occur more frequently in some sub-Saharan African countries than others.

Another victim of violence: Trust in those who mean no harm
Exposure to violence does not change the ability to learn who is likely to do harm, but it does damage the ability to place trust in 'good people,' psychologists at Yale and University of Oxford report April 26 in the journal Nature Communications

Victims of gun violence tell their stories: Everyday violence, 'feelings of hopelessness'
Invited to share their personal stories, victims of urban gun violence describe living with violence as a 'common everyday experience' and feeling abandoned by police and other societal institutions, reports a study in the November/December Journal of Trauma Nursing, official publication of the Society of Trauma Nurses.

Does more education stem political violence?
In a study released online today in Review of Educational Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, three Norwegian researchers attempt to bring clarity to this question by undertaking the first systematic examination of quantitative research on this topic.

Teen dating violence is down, but boys still report more violence than girls
When it comes to teen dating violence, boys are more likely to report being the victim of violence -- being hit, slapped, or pushed--than girls.

Preventing murder by addressing domestic violence
Victims of domestic violence are at a high risk to be murdered -- or a victim of attempted murder -- according to a Cuyahoga County task force of criminal-justice professionals, victim advocates and researchers working to prevent domestic violence and homicides.

'Love displaces violence'
Art historian Eva-Bettina Krems on persistent motifs of peace in art from antiquity to the present day -- dove, rainbow or victory of love: artists draw on recurring motifs.

Read More: Violence News and Violence Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.