What’s in a name? Subliminally activating trusting behavior

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January 2010, Volume111(Issue1) Page62To70


Because the choice to trust is inherently risky, people naturally assess others’ trustworthiness before they engage in trusting actions. The research reported here suggests that the trust development process may start before the conscious assessment of trustworthiness, via the activation of a relational schema. We present three experiments that examined the automatic, non-conscious activation of interpersonal trusting behavior via a variety of subliminal cues: positive or negative, relational or non-relational, and trust-related or not. In all three studies, subliminal relational cues influenced subsequent trusting behavior, apparently without conscious awareness. Results from the third study also indicated that subliminal relational cues that were specifically trust-related influenced trustors’ expectations of the likelihood of reciprocity. Overall, the data provide initial evidence that the development of interpersonal trust can start before and beneath conscious awareness.

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doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2009.10.002