Trust in relationships is easily broken but hard to repair. A recent study has shown that in relationships based on trust a betrayal early in the relationship is harder to overcome than a betrayal that occurs after the relationship has been established.
Trust is important in any close relationship, be it a love relationship, marriage, dating, friendship or business relationship. Once credibility is lost in any relationship, there is no guarantee that it can ever be regained.
Betrayal of trust is never good for a relationship, but betrayals that occur early may never be completely overcome.Betrayals that occur early are very difficult to overcome. Once a relationship is established, there is a better chance that the relationship can be mended after a breach of trust.
“First impression matters when you want to build a lasting trust” said Robert Lount, the co-author of the study and assistant professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. Lount continued, “If you get off on the wrong foot, the relationship may never be completely right again. It’s easier to rebuild trust after a breach if you already have a strong relationship.”
The importance of a good first impression seems obvious, but according to Lount, there is a theme in popular culture that suggests many great relationships start out badly.
Many Hollywood movies are based on the premise of a hate-love relationship. A couple that hates each other at first sight and then turning it around to a passionate love relationship. While this makes an entertaining story, the likelihood of the common love story theme is pretty low in real life.
Lount and his colleges used a game called prisoner’s dilemma, which is a psychology game, Two players had to decide separately and privately whether they were going to cooperate with each other of defect against each other for a monetary reward.
Subjects were told they were playing against another person in a separate room, but in fact, they were playing against a computer that was programmed to cooperate and defect at set intervals.
By playing the subjects against computers, researchers were able to control whether breaches of trust occurred early in the game, or a little later.
Researchers found that the participants who experienced the immediate breaches of trust evaluated their partners most negatively. Even after 20 rounds of cooperation following a breach of trust, the people who experienced immediate breaches still harbored negative feelings about their partner.
Participants who experienced a breach of trust late in the game showed the most cooperation at the end of the game. Their level of cooperation was slightly higher that participants who never defected. This indicated that if they were betrayed later in the game they were able to get over the betrayal.
According t Lount, the computer defected against each participant the same number of times, only twice during more than 30 rounds of the game. The timing of the breaches was keep.
Lount said, “An immediate breach of trust is particularly difficult to overcome, and later breaches are considerable less harmful.
The results suggest that immediate breaches of trust are especially costly because they do serious damage to the impressions people have about the other person.
Lount conducted the study with Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto’ Niro Sivanathan of the London business School; and J. Keith Murnigham of Northwestern University.
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