Trust as the glue of cognitive institutions

Publication Name

Philosophical Psychology


In this paper we consider the importance of trust, in the context of economic institutions, and specifically with respect to questions about market mechanisms and the role of social interactions. We review recent advances in institutional economics closely tied to developments in philosophy of mind and cognitive science, involving extended and enactive cognition. We argue that the analysis of different conceptions of institutional mind extension, in Denzau and North’s shared mental models, Clark’s extended mind, and a more enactive approach that emphasizes the importance of social interaction and personal relationships, can benefit from Kathrine Hawley’s distinction between reliability and trust. Institutional arrangements based solely on the reliability of impersonal mechanisms can lead to a variety of social pathologies and, at the extreme, a form of cognitive atrophy, all of which can undermine the sustainability of institutions. Even if trust comes with risks and some degree of unpredictability, it turns out to be a necessary glue-like ingredient in the constitution of social institutions.

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