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When distrust frees your mind : the stereotype-reducing effects of distrust


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Posten A C;Mussweiler T

Publication Year



Trust and distrust are essential elements of human interaction, yet little is known about how trust and distrust shape how we perceive others. To close this gap, we examined how trust versus distrust influences stereotyping. Recent research has suggested that distrust fosters the use of cognitive nonroutine strategies. Building on these findings, we investigated the hypothesis that—contrary to intuition—it might be distrust rather than trust that reduces stereotyping. Supporting this hypothesis, engaging in an untrustworthy (vs. trustworthy vs. trust-unrelated) interaction resulted in less stereotypic evaluations in an unrelated person-judgment task (Experiment 1). Replicating the stereotype-reducing effect, 2 different distrust (vs. trust) priming manipulations led to less stereotypic person judgments in 2 different stereotyping paradigms (Experiments 2A and 2B). We hypothesized that a comparison focus on dissimilarities—a nonroutine mechanism that works against stereotyping—causes this stereotype-reducing effect. In line with this notion, distrust led to a more pronounced dissimilarity-focus (Experiment 3), and the stereotype-reducing effect of distrust diminished when this dissimilarity-focus was impaired (Experiment 4). Our findings suggest that distrust induces a dissimilarity-focus that in turn reduces stereotyping.

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