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How activating cognitive content shapes trust : a subliminal priming study


Journal of Economic Psychology


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Posten A.-C;Ockenfels A.;Mussweiler T

Publication Year



The activation of cognitive contents plays a prominent role in social psychological research. Yet, so far this has received little attention in economics. In our research we connect a standard social psychological manipulation to activate cognitive content (a trust vs. distrust priming manipulation) to a classic paradigm from economics (a trust game). Our findings demonstrate that subliminally activating the concept of trust (vs. distrust) leads participants to judge a series of strangers as more (vs. less) trustworthy. Moreover, our research shows for the first time that such a subliminal priming manipulation shapes the subsequent sending behavior in a fictitious version of a standard economic trust game. This suggests that psychological priming techniques allow new insights into what determines beliefs in economic games.

Publication Notes

Trust; Distrust; Priming; Belief formation

Available on ECCH


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