Study finds that this is what we care most about when it comes to trusting professionals

As advancements in technology continue to make knowledge more and more accessible, an antipathy toward professionals deepens in amateurs. Writer Tom Nichols succinctly identified the cause of this  growing mistrust: “A Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers.”

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This phenomenon can be detected in every aspect of our society, but a new study conducted by Airtasker locates our collective Pyrrhonism more directly via a massive study of individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Broadly, a review of the results suggests factors besides narcissistic ignorance. Our willingness to trust professionals depends on practical considerations like experience and education level for instance, in addition to silly tribalistic ones like sexual orientation, race, and gender; a mixed bag, intended to be taken with a grain of salt given the data relies predominantly on self-reporting.

The pool of 1,001 American respondents utilized in  Airtasker’s study was comprised of  95 baby boomers, 271 Gen Xers, 618 millennials, and 17 people from outside those specified generations. Four-hundred and ninety-five of the participants were female, 502 were male, and four respondents chose neither gender.

These participants were shown randomized photographs of individuals of different races and genders for varying occupations. The surveyees were then asked how much they trusted the person photographed in their respective occupation.

A breakdown of trust

As far as professions alone are concerned, doctors are the most trusted workers of the six occupations included.

Interestingly enough, when participants were asked to rank the qualities that most informed their degree of trust, race and sexuality were found to be the least relevant. The top three?  Experience, Education, and sincerity.

The importance of these qualifiers varied based on other precursors, however. For instance, although experience and education carried a lot of weight across the board,  African American employees gained the most trust as doctors (over 93%), plumbers, (over 90%), drivers (nearly 92%), and mechanics (66%).  Asian professionals were the most trusted as house cleaners and IT workers.


Ethnicity factors impacted liberals’ decision to trust an employee of any field a lot less than respondents that reported conservative views. Over 73% of participants that identified as liberals, said it didn’t matter if the person working in their home didn’t speak fluent English, compared to 54% of conservatives that seconded this.


For some professions, namely, IT workers and drivers, gender appeared to play no significant role in trust, but other industries showcased some interesting incongruities. Eighty-nine percent preferred having a male plumber compared to 78% that said they would trust a female one to do the job. Almost 69% of respondents said that they preferred a man to move their furniture, with an additional 63% expressing a similar view about the completion of home repair projects.  On balance, people trusted female doctors over male ones, however, (93% vs 89.8%).

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