03/19/2014 03:49 EDT | Updated 03/19/2014 03:59 EDT

Smart People More Likely To Trust Others, Study Finds

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A new study out of Oxford University indicates intelligent people are more likely to trust others, while those with lower scores on intelligence scales aren't as trusting.

Researchers based findings on an analysis of the General Social Survey, a nationally representative public opinion survey in the United States that occurs every one to two years. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE and supports previous research on trust and intelligence in European countries.

Researchers say one potential explanation is smarter people are better at judging character and are therefore less likely to involve themselves with those who may "betray" them.

"Intelligence is shown to be linked with trusting others, even after taking into account factors like marital status, education and income," says lead author Noah Carl of the Oxford Department of Sociology. "This finding supports what other researchers have argued, namely that being a good judge of character is a distinct part of human intelligence which evolved through natural selection.

However, there are other possible interpretations of the evidence, and further research is needed to disentangle them."

"People who trust others seem to report better health and greater happiness," added Professor Francesco Billari of the same department, who was also one of the study's authors. The researchers suggest that trust is significant due to the importance of "social trust" in regard to social institutions and public health and note that, "there are good reasons to think that governments, religious groups and other civic organizations should try to cultivate more trust in society."

However, researchers also found the links between trust and health, and trust and happiness, are "not explained by intelligence." Research instead confirms trust as a valuable resource for an individual, and not merely a measure of intelligence.

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