Perceptions of High Integrity Can Persist After Deception: How Implicit Beliefs Moderate Trust Erosion

Abstract

Scholars have assumed that trust is fragile: difficult to build and easily broken. We demonstrate, however, that in some cases trust is surprisingly robust—even when harmful deception is revealed, some individuals maintain high levels of trust in the deceiver. In this paper, we describe how implicit theories moderate the harmful effects of revealed deception on a key component of trust: perceptions of integrity. In a negotiation context, we show that people who hold incremental theories (beliefs that negotiating abilities are malleable) reduce perceptions of their counterpart’s integrity after they learn that they were deceived, whereas people who hold entity theories (beliefs that negotiators’ characteristics and abilities are fixed) maintain their first impressions after learning that they were deceived. Implicit theories influenced how targets interpreted evidence of deception. Individuals with incremental theories encoded revealed deception as an ethical violation; individuals with entity theories did not. These findings highlight the importance of implicit beliefs in understanding how trust changes over time.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We note that though participants had never negotiated with one another prior to this exercise, it is possible that initial impressions may have developed from previous interactions.

  2. 2.

    Buyers’ theories were not significantly related to any of the dependent measures, and we focus on sellers’ theories in the remaining analyses and discussion.

  3. 3.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for noting the importance of establishing the durability of the implicit theory manipulation over time.

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Correspondence to Michael P. Haselhuhn.

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Haselhuhn, M.P., Schweitzer, M.E., Kray, L.J. et al. Perceptions of High Integrity Can Persist After Deception: How Implicit Beliefs Moderate Trust Erosion. J Bus Ethics 145, 215–225 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3649-5

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Keywords

  • Negotiation
  • Trust
  • Deception
  • Trust dynamics