December 28, 2021

Who Do You Trust? New Studies Examine Police Performance and Customer Loyalty

TRUST & THE LAW: A new study from Paul Zak and his co-researchers looks at the adverse effects of a drop in trust in police departments. (Photo image credit: Wikimedia Commons/flickr

POLICE & TRUST: Trust in government is at historically low levels. According to a new study published by Professor of Economic Sciences Paul Zak and his co-authors, 77% of those living in the United States reported back in 1964 that they trusted the federal government. By 2019 that value had dropped to 17% (and some polls make that percentage even lower).

One area in which that drop in trust has been seen most dramatically is regarding the public’s response to law enforcement. This is the area that Zak and his colleagues Adriana Kraig (PhD, Politics and Policy, ’18) and CGU visiting scholar and retired police chief Bob Harrison take aim at in “The impact of organizational trust on the performance of police departments” published in the journal SN Social Sciences. Read here

Among the results reported in their new article is how patrol officers, who interact the most with the public, have the lowest trust among among all police personnel.  As a result, patrol officers enjoy their jobs less and have a diminished sense of purpose and engagement that, in some cases, is leading to many quitting their jobs.

The publication also reports the effects of a program that Zak’s team designed to boost trust in police departments with promising results. Their intervention was implemented in a California police department and increased organizational trust by 8.1%, which resulted in a 6.1% increase in engagement, a 7.3% increase in job enjoyment, and a 10.5% increase in retention. (These effects were primarily driven by the impact of trust-building among patrol officers.) This research was part of Kraig’s doctoral dissertation.


THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: While trust is a critical element for law enforcement, loyalty is what brands strive to create with their customers. For Zak and his researchers, attachment to brands is something that is developed in the brain and connected with customer experiences of oxytocin.

In a recent study published in the leading scientific journal PLoS ONE, Zak’s team administered synthetic oxytocin or a placebo to participants in their study and then exposed them to various products. Those who received oxytocin rated the products as having a higher quality, used emotional and warm language when describing the products, and spent more money buying these products during the experiment.

According to Zak, this study presents the first time that scientists have shown that oxytocin can cause us to create attachments not just to people, but also to products.

How can businesses use these findings to increase brand loyalty? Create more emotionally-compelling experiences for products, Zak’s team suggests, because such experiences cause the brain to release oxytocin. That includes store visits, which can also form pleasant memories associated to a specific brand.

When it comes to customer loyalty, Zak’s team shows that the phrase “it’s all in your head” is actually quite accurate. Read more