Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Trust and emotion

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Trust and emotion:
What is the relationship between trust and emotion?
Figure 1. Trust and emotion often influence each other in our lives.


After 25 years in marriage, Jenny was going through a divorce. Not giving up on the hope of finding love, she decided to give internet dating a go. She was approached by someone on RSVP named Garry who seemed really nice and sincere. He sent her lengthy romantic emails and told her that he fell in love with her in a week. He planned to meet her in person soon but he was entangled in a project that he had to finish. Two and a half weeks into this relationship, Garry started to ask Jenny for financial help to finish his project so that he could join her permanently. The amount of money he asked for initially was $10,000, but Jenny eventually transferred to him more than 100,000 dollars (Jenny talks on SBS program INSIGHT).

What do you make of Jenny's decision to trust Garry and send such a huge amount of money to him? As you probably have suspected, Jenny is a victim of romance fraud. And she is not the only one. According to anti-fraud expert, Detective Superintendent Brian Hay with the Queensland Police, thousands of Australians lose millions of dollars each year due to internet dating fraud. If you are amazed by Jenny's story and interested in understanding the psychology of Jenny's decision, please read on. With Jenny's case in the background, this chapter discusses trust, emotion and the relationship between the two. More specifically, this chapter aims to answer the following questions:

  • What is trust? What is emotion?
  • How does emotion influence trust and trust influence emotion?
  • What can be learned from theories and research evidence concerning emotion and trust in our daily lives?

What is emotion? What is trust?[edit]

Emotion refers to affective states that have bodily, cognitive, expressive and behavioural components (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007). In comparison to mood, which is another type of affective state that is more diffuse, longer in duration with no clear referent, emotion is shorter in duration, more intense and has an identifiable referent (meaning we usually know what has triggered us to experience a certain emotion)(Schwartz & Clore, 2007). A very important feature of emotion is that it implies a set of cognitive appraisals of the environment and the situation. The primary appraisal is valence (positive or negative for one's goals and concerns), and secondary appraisals include control (who controls the outcome), certainty (what is going to happen), required attention and effort (Dunn & Schweitzer, 2005). In contemporary emotion research, secondary appraisals are regarded as more effective in distinguishing different emotional states (Dunn & Schweitzer, 2005). For example, both anger and guilt are negative in valence, but anger is characterised by other-person control (someone else caused the outcome), whereas guilt is characterised by personal control (outcome caused by oneself). From a functional point of view, emotions enable us to assess the environment relevant to our concerns and create a kind of action readiness to adapt to the environment and during the process also serve social communication functions (Van Kleef, De Dreu, & Manstead, 2010).

Figure 2. Trust enables a lot of things.

How much do you trust your partner, your friends, colleagues, your boss and the Prime Minister? As social beings, we instinctively know that trust is an essential ingredient in interpersonal relationships. Beyond the interpersonal level, trust has also tremendous influence in the working of society as a whole. Economists found that trust levels in different countries correlate with their economic performances (Knack & Keefer, 1997). Put simply, citizens in the countries with higher trust levels also have higher incomes. So, what is trust, this powerful thing? Several definitions have been proposed by scholars and they seem to converge on key themes. Trust can be defined as a psychological state characterised by the willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of the trustee based on positive expectations that the trustee will perform certain behaviour important to the truster (Weber, Malhotra, & Murnighan, 2005).

A quick quiz


Which statement is NOT true of emotion?

A – Emotion is what we call feelings.
B - Emotion is characterised by multidimensional responses to the environment.
C -Emotional states involve primary appraisals regarding to goals and concerns as well as a set of secondary appraisals such as control, and certainty.


How do we understand trust?

A - Trust is important for interpersonal relationships.
B - Trust enables cooperation and business transaction in the society.
C- Trust involves risk taking based on positive expectations of the other party.
D- All of the statements are true.

How does emotion influence trust?[edit]

Theoretical models[edit]

Researchers have long been interested in the influence of mood and emotion on decision making and judgement (Forgas, 1995; Clore & Hutsinger, 2007). With regard to emotion's influence on trust, two models that have received considerable empirical evidence are briefly introduced here.

Emotion-as-information model

According to the emotion-as-information model, we use our emotions as experiential and bodily information to inform our judgement when evaluating a target (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007). This is especially the case when the judgement itself concerns our affective response (whether to date somebody is a judgement directly involving how you feel about the person) or when the task at hand is complex or demanding. In the latter case, emotion is used as a kind of heuristic. We simplify a complex task by asking ourselves "how do I feel about it?" (Schwarz & Clore, 2007). For example, whether to buy a property involves considering a lot of factors and information. When you are overwhelmed with all the information about body corporate, land tax and mortgage rates, you might simply ask yourself the question, how do I feel about this place? Often our emotions are more compelling than our thoughts and faster than our cognitive responses (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007). Research studies have shown that emotions could influence a range of judgments such as life satisfaction, culpability, and morality (Clore & Huntsinger, 2007).

A very important distinction should be made here: integral and incidental emotions. Integral emotions are elicited by the target that we are evaluating. Incidental emotions are unrelated to the target and just happen to be present at the moment (Schwartz & Clore, 2007). When we use integral emotions as clues, they provide meaningful and often accurate information regarding the judgement at hand. BUT we could mistakenly use incidental emotions as information. For example, when we experience happiness, we might become more trusting to a salesman in comparison to when we feel anxious. In this example, it is our incidental emotions, not the features of the salesman that makes the difference. The research cited in this chapter mainly studied incidental emotions.

Question for thought: How do we understand Jenny's case in this model? Could it be that Jenny was feeling loved by Garry, and as a result, she relied on how she felt when making the decision to invest in him?

Affect-infusion model (AIM)

The Affect-infusion model (AIM) is a comprehensive model of social judgements. Affect infusion is defined as "the process whereby affectively loaded information exerts an influence on and becomes incorporated into the judgmental process, entering into the judge's deliberations and eventually colouring the judgmental outcome" (Forgas, 1995, p. 39). According to this model, target features (such as familiarity), the judgment features (such as personal relevance) and situation features (such as high need for accuracy) all contribute to the making of a judgement (Forgas, 1995)[Rewrite to improve clarity]. This model also identifies four judgemental strategies used by people. The first two strategies, direct access (based on retrieval of preexisting judgements) and motivated (guided by a preexisting goal) processing are classified as low infusion strategies (Forgas, 1995). These two strategies do not incur a lot of emotional and mood influence. For example, when we decide whether to trust a friend to look after our children, we refer to our knowledge of his/her personality and record of trustworthiness, rather than how we feel at the moment. The last two strategies, heuristic (simplified shortcuts) and substantive (selective and constructive processing of available information) are classified as high infusion strategies (Forgas, 1995). Our emotions and moods exert their influence when we use high infusion strategies.

According to the AIM model, heuristic processing is more likely when the target is simple, typical or has low personal relevance and the situation does not demand high accuracy (Forgas, 1995). In this case, we may make judgements based on irrelevant associations from the environment (for example, niceness or disgustingness of the room you are in) or how we feel at the moment (like the emotion-as-information model). In contrast, substantive processing is more likely when the target is complex or atypical and we are motivated to be accurate (Forgas, 1995). Our emotions and moods affect our judgement in this case through affective priming. Different from emotion as information when we ask ourselves how we feel, affective priming is an indirect route for affective influence in judgement. Imagine an emotion as a node in our brain, when one node is activated, associations and memories related to the node are also activated. So, when we experience an emotion, we are more likely to selectively attend to and recall information related to that emotion. Our emotional state also influences how we interpret ambiguous situations (Could you think of a personal example for this?).

Question for thought: How do we understand Jenny's case in this model? How have Garry's features, the investing decision's features and situational features contributed to Jenny's decision? How has emotion, as information, or through affective priming, impacted on Jenny's judgement?

A quick quiz


What does emotion-as-information model say?

A – We use how we feel at the moment as clues to make a judgement at hand.
B - How we feel at the moment may be related to the target, or it may not.
C -Emotional information is always correct because they are gut feelings.
D- A and B sound all right.


How does AIM model explain our judgement strategies and emotion's influence on trust?

A - When we know the target very well, we rely on past judgements rather than how we feel at the moment.
B - When the judgement is highly important to ourselves, we will be more cautious not to rely on situational emotions.
C- We are more susceptible to emotional influence when we use mental shortcuts or don't have a lot of knowledge about the target.
D- All of the statements are true.

Studies of emotion's influence on trust[edit]

In this section we are going to look at research that directly examined the influence of emotion on trust. To be more specific, this section covers research findings as to how incidental emotions and facial emotion displays influence trust decision and behavioural trust. This section ends with a quick look at emotion and trust development.

Firstly, how do incidental emotions influence trust? Let's compare two studies.

In a much cited study, Dunn and Schweitzer (2005) studied how specific emotional states such as happiness, sadness, gratitude, anger, pride and guilt influence trust decisions. In the study, incidental emotions of the participants were induced by asking them to describe in detail a situation that made them very sad, happy, angry, grateful, guilty before the trust inventory of a certain target was filled in. Familiarity of the target person was also manipulated. The key findings were the following:

  1. Consistent with the emotion-as-information model, incidental emotions influenced trust in the direction of the emotion's valence. Happiness and gratitude increased trust, anger decreased trust.
  2. Consistent the AIM model, target familiarity moderated the influence. When trustee is very familiar to the truster, unrelated emotions did not influence trust level.
  3. Consistent with earlier studies on appraisals, secondary appraisals of emotions have different impacts on trust. The researchers found that other-person control emotions (such as anger, gratitude) have significantly stronger impact on trust than personal control emotions(such as pride, guilt).
Figure 3. Emotions unrelated to the target may influence our judgement.
Two Way Arrow.jpg

Using the same emotion induction technique, but adopting behavioural trust measure (as revealed through investing behaviour in a trust game) rather than self-reports of trust level, Myers and Tingley (2011) studied secondary appraisal of emotions in influencing trust-certainty. According to these researchers, negative emotions only influence trust when they are of low certainty appraisal (such as anxiety). In this study anger and guilt, different in control appraisal but same in certainty (high certainty) appraisal, did not have clear influence on trust (Myers & Tingley, 2011).

How to compare this study with the Dunn and Schweitzer study[grammar?]? More research needs to be done to find out the reasons behind different findings. One possibility is that these studies used different trust measures. It could be that self-report trust levels do not correlate well with measures of behavioural trust.

How does the trust game work? Both participants receive a certain amount of monetary units (MU). The investor could choose to send some of his(her) MU to the trustee. Any amount he (she) sends would be tripled by the experimenter before it reaches the trustee. Then the trustee could choose to send back any amount of MU considered appropriate. This is a classic game to measure behavioural trust.

Figure 4. How much will player 2 give back to player 1?

Both studies we have looked at examined how emotions influence individuals' trust level on other people, but how does our perception of other people's emotional states influence our trust? Also using a trust game, a research article by Kausel and Connolly (2014) showed that we generally follow the emotion-as-information model in the sense that we judge other people's trustworthiness in congruent with our perceptions of their emotions: we judge that happy and grateful people would be more trustworthy than angry people. But are our perceptions always accurate? An interesting finding is that angry people do reciprocate trust, at least more than emotion neutral people (Kausel & Connolly, 2014).

Next, let's have a look how facial emotion displays influence trust. Researchers found that displays of happiness promote co-operation and trust, and displays of anger signal social distance (Scharlemann, Eckel, Kacelnik, & Wilson, 2001; Marsh, Ambady, & Kleck, 2005). A recent study however found that our trust mechanisms are more nuanced. Using multiple rounds of the trust game, Campellone and Kring (2013) found that display of anger, but not happiness, impacted on trust level on first interactions. As interactions were repeated many times and a history of behavioural pattern was established that corresponded with facial displays, only then did facial displays contribute to strengthening the trust decisions that were already made (Campellone & Kring, 2013). When facial displays deviated from behaviour, participants judged from the current behaviour, rather than the facial display (Campellone & Kring, 2013). This study probably tells us that while displaying happiness (such as smiling) is generally better than displaying anger, behaving in a trustworthy way is ultimately more important than facial displays.

Finally, we have a look at the role of emotion in trust development.

There are two approaches to trust development among researchers. In the first approach, trust is a rational choice. A very good example of this approach could be seen in the influential trust model developed by Mayer, Davis and Schoorman in 1995. In this model trust decision is based on the truster's careful evaluation of the trustee's ability, benevolence and integrity, the perceived risk and the context (Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995). Trust is judged as a risk that is worth taking, but risk is constantly assessed and managed. Time and repeated positive interactions play an important role as trust develops incrementally.

Two Way Arrow.jpg

Another approach is the motivated attribution model of trust development. In this model, when we are in a potential trusting relationship, how we perceive the other party may be driven by our motivated interpretation rather than rational risk assessment (Weber, Malhotra, & Murnighan, 2005). Sometimes, when we have a high dependence (desire, or need) for a certain outcome that we think the other party can provide we are motivated to trust the other party under the influence of anxiety. This explains why, not uncommonly, people make risky trust decisions beyond available evidence. This risky trust, could lead to positive leaps in a relationship, but also sometimes result in regrets.

Question for thought: Which model would you choose to understand Jenny's case? Jenny's story may sound far way from your life when you first heard of it. But now, let's ask ourselves, am I immune to risky trust that could have brought me regrets?

A quick quiz

What does research say about emotion's influence on trust ?

A – Generally speaking, positive emotions either felt by ourselves or displayed by others induce more trust than negative emotions.
B - Research is not definitive on which negative emotions cause decreased trust.
C - We make our trust judgements by comparing facial expressions with behaviour pattern.
D- All the statements are true.

Studies of trust's influence on emotion[edit]

In this section, we will discuss trust betrayal and negative emotions and how trust could moderate secondary appraisals of our emotions.

Figure 5. Broken trust is hard to repair.

When we trust somebody, we hold positive expectations of the person. What happens when there is a breach of trust? Researchers Lee and Selart (2011) conducted an experiment using a betrayal and a control group to find out how emotions influence trust after experiencing a betrayal. As they predicted, trust betrayal caused negative emotions such as upset, anger and shame. It was found that shame, more than other emotions, was linked to subsequent lower trust levels to strangers. Another question: do we experience betrayal by a friend differently from betrayal by a stranger? Joskowicz–Jabloner and Leiser (2013) examined emotional responses to trust betrayal in social and personal domains. The study compared negative emotional responses, as well their intensity and relief patterns in the two domains. It was found that when we experience trust betrayal by a stranger (violation of norms), we experience emotions such as anger and indignation. But these emotions can be effectively relieved with apology, compensation and hyper compensation. In contrast, when we experience trust betrayal by a friend, the negative emotions include disappointment and hurt, experienced in a higher intensity than the social domain. More importantly, there was no effective relief from these emotions. Apology was the comparatively effective in comparison to other reliefs such as revenge or compensation, but the negative emotions were still there.

Trust also impacts on our secondary appraisals of emotions. For example, Liu and Wang (2010) found that how we respond emotionally to a frustrated goal or loss is mediated by trust or distrust. When trust is present in a cooperative setting, we are more likely to judge that the other person cannot help the circumstances. As a result we feel compassion rather than anger to the person. When distrust is present in a competitive setting, we are more likely to judge that the other person is responsible for our loss or frustration. In that case, we feel anger.

Question for thought: What kind of emotions did Jenny possibly experience when she found out that her trust was abused? By now, have you felt changes in your response to Jenny's story?

A quick quiz

Which statement is NOT true regarding research on trust's influence on emotion?

A – Betrayal by a friend leads to more intense negative emotions than betrayal by a stranger.
B - Apology and compensation are the most effective ways to relieve the hurt caused by a betrayal of trust.
C -Depending on our trust or distrust of somebody, we might have very different emotional responses to the same outcome.

The trust hormone[edit]

In this section, we will discuss what is the trust hormone and how to increase it in our daily lives.

Have you ever wondered, what makes us trusting? A group of researchers set out to discover the trust molecule and they found it. Oxytocin, a hormone that is essential for mothers' labour and milk let down as well as maternal care and bonding, was found to increase trust behaviour in people through intranasal administration (Kosfeld, Heinrichs, Zak, Fischbacher & Fehr, 2005). Participants administered oxytocin invested significantly more than the control group in the trust game. The researchers also tested in controlled experiments as to what might be the mechanisms of oxytocin's effect on trust. They found that oxytocin did not change trustee's trustworthiness significantly, only the trusting behaviour of the investors. Oxytocin also did not change the investors' beliefs about associated risks. The researchers suggested that oxytocin might help the investors to overcome betrayal aversion (Kosfeld et al., 2005).

Figure 6. Warm contact such as hugs can trigger oxytocin release.

Now we know that oxytocin increases trust, how do we build up trust with the knowledge? We can't carry and administer oxytocin to people through their noses all the time, can we? Luckily, scientists also discovered more convenient ways to trigger oxytocin release. Researchers Lighta, Grewena and Amicob (2005) found that more frequent hugs and warm contact from their partners were associated with higher oxytocin release and lower blood pressure in premenopausal women. In another study, researchers Morhenn, Beavin and Zak (2012) found that massage could increase oxytocin and reduce stress hormone. Have you seen the pattern? Warm contact (such as hugs and massages) seems the way to naturally increase oxytocin release and make us closer with each other.

What happens when we hug a stranger? Have you heard of the Free Hugs Campaign? The founder of this campaign is a Sydney native named Juan Mann who used to live in London. For various reasons he had to return home to Australia. When arriving at Sydney airport alone with a heavy heart, he was watching other people hugging and laughing with their families. He felt he really needed a hug. This is how he decided to start the Free Hugs Campaign to hug strangers and hopefully make their days a little bit brighter. Find out more about what happens when you hug a stranger:


In conclusion, emotion and trust influence each other in intricate ways. The emotions we experience can influence our trust decisions and behaviours through a direct route as information, or an indirect route through affective priming, or affect our trust development through dependence anxiety. Our trust or distrust of somebody can lead to very different emotional responses to the same outcome. Trust betrayal is associated with a range of negative emotions.

What could we learn from research about emotion and trust? Hopefully we now have a more nuanced understanding of Jenny's story. The following are some key points to take away regarding our own lives:

  • When we make a decision based on how we feel, be aware whether the feelings we are experiencing are elicited by or unrelated to the target.
  • When we meet someone for the first time and we want to be trusted, have a smile on our face is a good idea (of course it has to be genuine). But behaving in a consistent trustworthy way is more important than our facial expressions ultimately.
  • Before making a risky trust decision, it would be a good idea to reflect on the relationship and ask ourselves whether we are trapped/inspired by our dependence on the other party? Are we prepared for the consequences?
  • Don't betray the trust of our friends or partners. The hurt they feel is hard to relieve.
  • How to make relationships with our loved ones stronger and more trusting? Give plenty of warm contact. Hug them often. Both you and your loved ones will benefit.
  • If you don't mind looking a bit silly, you can go and hug strangers (careful with the boundaries though). You might make a difference to someone's bad day.

See also[edit]


Campellone, T. R., & Kring, A. M. (2013). Who do you trust? The impact of facial emotion and behaviour on decision making. Cognition & Emotion, 27, 603-620.

Clore, G. L., & Huntsinger, J. R. (2007). How emotions inform judgment and regulate thought. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11, 393-399. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2007.08.005

Dunn, J. R., & Schweitzer, M. E. (2005). Feeling and believing: The influence of emotion on trust. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 736-748. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.88.5.736

Forgas, J. P. (1995). Mood and judgment: The affect infusion model (AIM). Psychological Bulletin, 117(1), 39-66.

Joskowicz–Jabloner, L., & Leiser, D. (2013). Varieties of trust‐betrayal: Emotion and relief patterns in different domains. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43, 1799-1813. doi: 10.1111/jasp.12130

Kausel, E. E., & Connolly, T. (2014). Do people have accurate beliefs about the behavioral consequences of incidental emotions? Evidence from trust games. Journal of Economic Psychology, 42, 96-111.

Knack, S., & Keefer, P. (1997). Does social capital have an economic payoff? A cross-country investigation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112, 1251-1288.

Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P. J., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2005). Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature, 435, 673-676. doi:10.1038/nature03701

Lee, W. S., & Selart, M. (2011, February). The influence of emotions on trust in experienced betrayal situations. Paper presented at Asian Pacific Economic Science Association annual meeting, Kuala Lumpur.

Light, K. C., Grewen, K. M., & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology, 69(1), 5-21. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.11.002

Liu, M., & Wang, C. (2010). Explaining the influence of anger and compassion on negotiators’ interaction goals: An assessment of trust and distrust as two distinct mediators. Communication Research, 37, 443 –472. doi: 10.1177/0093650210362681

Marsh, A. A., Ambady, N., & Kleck, R. E. (2005). The effects of fear and anger facial expressions on approach and avoidance related behaviors. Emotion, 5, 119-124.

Mayer, R. C., Davis, J. H., & Schoorman, F. D. (1995). An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review, 20, 709-734.

Morhenn, V., Beavin, L. E., & Zak, P. J. (2012). Massage increases oxytocin and reduces adrenocorticotropic hormone in humans. Altern. Ther. Health Med, 18 (6), 11-18.

Myers, D., & Tingley, D. (2011). The influence of emotion on trust. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Retrieved from

Scharlemann, J. P. W., Eckel, C. C., Kacelnik, A., & Wilson, R. K. (2001). The value of a smile: Game theory with a human face. Journal of Economic Psychology, 22, 617-640.

Schwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (2007). Feelings and phenomenal experiences. In A. Kruglanski & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles (2nd ed.; pp. 385-407). New York: Guilford.

Van Kleef, G. A., De Dreu, C. K., & Manstead, A. S. (2010). An interpersonal approach to emotion in social decision making: The emotions as social information model. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 45-96. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2601(10)42002-X

Weber, J. M., Malhotra, D., & Murnighan, J. K. (2004). Normal acts of irrational trust: Motivated attributions and the trust development process. Research in Organizational Behavior, 26, 75-101. doi:10.1016/S0191-3085(04)26003-8

External links[edit]