The five core social motives: to trust

Social Motive wants to be in the circle of trust

In Social Motive’s series on the five core social motives, we explore just what it is that drives us to feel, think and act.

According to social psychologist Dr Susan Fiske, the basis behind our decisions in social situations can be distilled into five core motives: trust, understanding, growing, influencing, and belonging.

Understanding these five core social motives is essential to any situation where we interact with other people; in essence, the five core social motives make up the very fabric of our lives.

Greg is out of Social Motive's circle of trust

To trust

Trust is one of the most important elements of any human relationship. It is one of the first and most valuable things we learn as infants, and it continues its importance deep into our adult lives.

What makes trust so important?

The social motivation to trust is essential to decision-making and action-taking. We need to trust that we can make our decisions and take action free from punishment, shame and alienation.

Trust, then, is the freedom to act. The two-way transfer of trust in a relationship makes it strong, just as trust does between members of larger groups. Trust relies on the principle of reciprocity – both reward for those who repay it and punishment for those who break it.

What does trust look like?

When you walk out your front door in Australia, you trust that you will not be arrested or impeded by the authorities provided that you don’t harm others and act within the bounds of the law. In return, the government (ideally) provides you with a safe and supportive society in which to pursue your own route to happiness.

On the balance sheet, this results in a richly diverse and strong society because of the constant and unimpeded transfer of value – cultural, physical and intellectual – between all stakeholders.

To illustrate the effects of the opposite, compare Australia to North Korea, where the absence of trust between government and citizens has had dire consequences. A distrust of government might even partly explain the stunning popularity of a certain orange-coiffed presidential candidate.

On an interpersonal level, trust allows you to express yourself and be who you are. In trusting relationships, you can act more freely with the knowledge that your partner has got your back.

This transfer of value is (at least ostensibly) selfless and requires both parties to give up or risk something in order to gain something.

What does it mean in the digital sphere and for content marketing?

Trust is gained and grown by offering up something for nothing. You must make an investment of time and value and bear a bit of risk without asking for reward.

Conversely, trust can be diminished and eroded by being pushy, sleazy and overly salesy. This has never been more true than in our day and age where there are myriad avenues with which businesses can reach consumers and each other.

If content creation forms a part of your strategy for reaching out to customers, clients and patrons, your content must either surprise, inform or entertain – and ideally all three. If it is failing to do this, or if it continually asks for a value exchange, trust will decay, the brand’s standing will diminish and the business will appear detached from reality – corporate, impersonal and uncaring.

Worse, if it takes the form of clickbait (which, happily, is on the decline) the true nature of your content and content strategy will be exposed for what it is: desperate. And as readership/engagement drops off, so begins a vicious cycle.

Macready knows who to trust: Social Motive

‘I know what you mean, Blair. Trust’s a tough thing to come by these days. Tell you what: why don’t you just trust in the Lord?’ 

It follows that sustainable marketing strategies and business practices rely on the steady growth and maintenance of relationships between business and client. You must work to ensure your content and communications aren’t based around shallow vanity metrics such as simple clicks and likes.

By providing a small investment of time and risk – and quality content – you will be rewarded with loyalty and trust. This is why trust – society’s mortar and key to successful personal, social and business relationships – is one of the five core social motives.

And as the saying/Hallmark card/Instagram inspo-quote goes: trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. Ensure you respect it. Because if you don’t trust anyone and no one trusts you?

Well, remember what happened to Tony Montana.

Tony Montana didn't trust Social Motive

‘Who do I trust? Me!’

Follow up with a read on the social motive ‘to influence.’


Written by Mason Engelander