Honesty biases trustworthiness impressions

Gabriele Bellucci*, Soyoung Q. Park

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


Honesty is central to trust and trustworthiness. However, how a good reputation as honest person is learned and induces trustworthiness impressions is still unexplored. Developing a novel paradigm, we show in 3 consecutive experiments that individuals prefer trusting honest others who share truthful information, especially if honest behavior is consistent over time. Trust in honest others was independent of proximal benefits, and honest individuals were repaid for their honesty with higher trust in a subsequent interaction. Crucially, signs of dishonesty decreased trust but only in those who had not previously built a good reputation as honest partners. On the contrary, those who could establish a good reputation were trusted even when they were no longer trustworthy, suggesting that participants could not successfully track changes in trustworthiness of those with an established good reputation. These findings suggest that a good reputation biases the ability to learn the momentary trustworthiness of another person and impairs the updating of one's beliefs about the other's character for behavior revision. Computational modeling analyses indicate an asymmetry in information integration when interacting with honest individuals that likely underlies such learning impairment. By showing how a good reputation influences learning processes in trust-based interactions, our results provide a mechanistic account for biases in social learning and social interactions, advancing our understanding of social behaviors in particular and human cognition in general.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1567-1586
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 08.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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