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The Importance of Consistency in Establishing Cognitive-based Trust: A Laboratory Experiment


This paper reports the results of two experiments onthe importance of three trust cues on establishinginterpersonal trust within a business setting. Theliterature (Lewis and Weigert, 1985; Ring, 1996) hasidentified two aspects to trust: a cognitive elementin which trust is the result of a rational calculationby the trustor about how the trustee will behave inthe future, and an emotional element in which trust isthe product of a strong positive affection between thetwo individuals. Most social relations, includingeconomic ones, are based on cognitive trust, whereasemotional trust is the basis for intense personalrelationships, such as love and friendship. Thisstudy focuses on three cognitive-based cues thatengender trust within a dyadic relationship: thefrequency with which the trustee and trustor interact,the competence of the trustee, and the consistency ofthe trustee’s previous behavior. In two experiments,using a budget setting, trust is measured as theperceived reliability of the trustee’s budgetinformation and the estimated time for the trustor tocomplete the budget task. The results reveal that theconsistency of the trustee’s previous behavior is themost important element in engendering cognitive-basedtrust within a dyad.

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Dunn, P. The Importance of Consistency in Establishing Cognitive-based Trust: A Laboratory Experiment. Teaching Business Ethics 4, 285–306 (2000).

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  • budgeting
  • ethics
  • trust