Reducing Exposure to Trust-Related Risks in Order to Avoid Self-Blame

Reducing Exposure to Trust-Related Risks in Order to Avoid Self-Blame

By
Daniel A. Effron, Dale T. Miller
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. February
2011, Vol. 37, Issue 2, Pages 181-192

Three studies demonstrated that anticipated self-blame elicits more conservative decisions about risks that require trust than about otherwise economically identical risks that do not. Participants were more reluctant to invest money in a company when it risked failure due to fraud versus low consumer demand (Study 1), and to risk points in an economic game when its outcome ostensibly depended on another participant versus chance (Studies 2 and 3). These effects were mediated by anticipated self-blame (Studies 1 and 2). Additionally, participants who actually experienced a loss felt more self-blame when the loss violated their trust and became even more conservative in subsequent risk decisions relative to participants whose loss did not violate their trust (Study 3). No support emerged for alternative explanations based on either the perceived probability of incurring a loss or an aversion to losses that profit others. The motivational power of trust violations is discussed.