Ron Burt, University of Chicago

Trust and Cooperation Beyond the Network
Ron Burt


Fall 2022
Lecture Time: 
Friday, November 11, 2022 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 

R0240, Ross School of Business, Lower Level

Introduced By: 
Megan Gabruk


My premise is that understanding trust beyond a network is essential to enhancing creativity and achievement within the network. I build on three anchor results (anchor results are strong, robust empirical results likely to be found in quality research): (1) Network brokers are more creative and successful than other people. (2) Returns to network brokerage are contingent on broker reputation in a target market – poor reputation means poor returns to brokerage. (3) Trust and reputation are facilitated and maintained in densely-connected, closed networks. But brokers usually operate outside the network around a target audience, so they operate beyond reputation governance within the network. Our wireless world has us each more aware of how we and our friends are different from people beyond our network. Much of what we see and hear, we do not like. Intolerance and abuse of people beyond our network is the fundamental issue targeted here. I use well-established network theory to predict “trust reversal:” The conditions that encourage trust and cooperation within a network have a by-product; they reverse to encourage suspicion and abuse beyond the network. Successful people are especially prone to the bias. Initial results are intriguingly supportive.

Recording & Additional Notes

Ronald Burt studies the ways that social networks create competitive advantage in careers, organizations, and markets (see research tab on personal website for downloads). He joined the Chicago Booth faculty in 1993.

Originally a pre-med major, Burt wanted to better explain people's behavior. He went into physiological psychology, then social psychology, finally finishing his doctorate under mathematical sociologist James Coleman here at Chicago. He earned a bachelor's degree in social and behavioral science from Johns Hopkins University in 1971 and a PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1977. He sought a better understanding of European business by spending two years as the Shell Professor of Human Resources at INSEAD, and came to better understand practical applications of his research by spending two years as the Vice President of Strategic Learning at Raytheon Company.

When commenting on the difference in environments at various institutions, he described Chicago as a place where "the risk of new ideas is higher than anywhere else because you are continually exposed to confrontation and contradiction between ideas. Most other places protect you from that."