Friday, May 06, 2005


Jamie Lewis has now posted the third part in his "thinking out loud about trust" series (although it's named Part II) where, to my mind, he goes well off the path into the heavy growth under the trees.

He suggests, first, that personal trust "is an instinct." Because sometimes we hit it off with someone right away and sometimes we get bad vibes and avoid the person. But I'll hold that this is all based on our experience with people like the stranger we are confronted with. People who resemble people we trust - in looks, dress, speech, mannerisms, etc. - we naturally want to trust. This is a major part of the con man's shtick - getting you to trust him. The judgment may be part of our subconscious, but it isn't "instinctive" else newborns might behave differently.

Jamie goes on to pick up the term "recognition" (suggested by both Phil Windley and Kim Cameron). The way Lewis defines the term is fine, but the word "recognition" itself comes with a lot of connotative baggage. The dictionary gives us six definitions, but only the first three are relevant here:
1. The act of recognizing or condition of being recognized.
2. An awareness that something perceived has been perceived before.
3. An acceptance as true or valid, as of a claim: a recognition of their civil rights.

It's only the third which talks about truth or validity. Otherwise, recognition is value neutral - we can recognize someone we trust, or we can recognize someone we mistrust. One of these most likely occurs in the "instinct" issue I mention above. Of course, it may not be the particular unique person we recognize but the persona we grant them based on past experience and which allows us to judge their trustworthiness (frequently incorrectly!).

I still believe that "reliance", and the degree of reliance, is a better term for what we are groping towards when discussing trust in an IdM context.

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