Friday, May 31, 2013

Who do you trust

Fourth in a series on Cognition and Emotion (v27, n4)

I have blogged before on the ideas of initial trust and ongoing trust.  Initial trust is that instinct you get when you first meet someone.  It turns out that the more similar the person is to you, in a variety of ways (some of which would shock you), the more you trust them on first impression.

But ongoing trust is a little more dependable.  It is more based on their past behavior.  If they have followed through in the past, we trust them.  If not, we don't.

A study by Campellone and Kring found something interesting.   They wanted to know if a person's facial expression of emotion had an effect on initial and ongoing trust.  They had their test subjects play a trust game with a partner who either looked happy (which should have higher initial trust) or angry (which should have lower initial trust).  Then this partner either behaved in accordance with their facial expression or the opposite. 

It turned out that after one round of the game, the behavior had a bigger effect than the facial expression, but the facial expression still did have an effect.  If the partner looked and acted trustworthy, the test subject trusted them more than if they acted trustworthy but didn't have any facial expression cues or had angry facial expressions.

Then as the test subjects got experience with the partner, they stopped paying attention at all to the facial expression.  No matter how happy the partner looked, if they acted untrustworthy they weren't trusted.

So if you are one of those smooth operators who thinks they can get their way with a cool smile, watch out.  You can fool many people once, or even twice.  But over time, we eventually learn to ignore the smile.

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