Trust Discrepancies: Women Trust more than Men after Trust Violations

In the study conducted, 470 Amazon MTurk workers (47% female) read a scenario in which, because of budget cuts, their company signed a contract to buy refurbished computers instead of brand-new computers. The participants were randomly assigned to a “trust violation experimental condition” or a “control no violation condition.” In the trust violation condition, the participants were told that the first shipment of computers appeared to be in good working order and were asked to report their trust in the supplier, based on a 7-point scale. Then, the participants were told that the first shipment of computers had technical problems, and when brought to a repair shop, the owner mentioned that the same group of computers had already been repaired for the same issues. After bringing this issue up with the supplier, the supplier apologized for the failures and there were no device failures in the next shipment of computers. Following the contractual violation, apology, and the good quality of the 2nd shipment, participants were asked to report their trust of the supplier going forward. In the control condition, the same procedure was followed except the computers successfully functioned after both shipments.

The study “expected women’s trust to be greater than men’s following a trust violation, but not when a counterpart consistently behaved in a trustworthy manner.” The results of the experiment were consistent with this hypothesis, as males and females did not differ in the amount of trust they originally had in the supplier. However, after the first batch of non-functioning computers were delivered–the display of untrustworthy behavior of the supplier, women maintained a significantly higher level of trust in the supplier than men. Since the control condition found no significant discrepancy between the two genders in regards to trust levels, the experiment demonstrates that gender disparities in trust emerge after trust violations happen.

It is clear that the experiment findings show that women have an easier time relative to men rebuilding faith after a violation of trust, but why does this occur? The psychological reasoning for these results depends of the idea of socialization. This means that by living in our society men and women both come to realize norms, attitudes, and behaviors. These differ by gender and therefore men and women have learned to act differently in certain situations. When both genders enter a situation in which an outside party has acted in an unethical manner and violated their trust, the difference in the way women are socially “supposed” to react and the way men are socially “supposed” to react is the cause for the variation in their actual feelings and actions. Women feel more societal pressures to be compassionate, warm, and understanding. Also, they have been found to have, on average, self-construals that value relationships more than men do. These factors lead them to regain trust after a trust violation relatively easily. Men on the other hand did not regain as much trust in the supplier as the women did. They are socialized in an opposite manner and this causes them to be less forgiving after betrayal. Men feel societal pressures to act unemotionally, businesslike, and rigid. The gender discrepancy in the restoration of trust following an unethical action reflects the differences in the way men and women are taught to behave through life experience.

The findings in this study seem quite valid. Although at the end of the study, the experimenters states that the sample sizes of 155 participants and the control of 315 individuals were unequal on account of a “study administration error.” However, the experimenters analyzed a randomly chosen subsample of 163 individuals within the control condition, to make sure that the unequal sample sizes did not affect the results. The new results mirrored the results that used a proportionally large sample size. The fact that the authors found their error and verified the results increases their credibility in our eyes. Another aspect of this experiment that leads us to find it so compelling is that it has strong external validity, as the participants were placed in a possible real-life situation. Since this experiment is so realistic, the results are more easily understood, generalizable across other situations, and tangibly connected to the psychological processes. Furthermore, this study contains 3 separate experiments that all resulted in the same phenomenon occurring. In each of the experiments, women were found to rebuild trust to a higher degree in relation to men after violations of trust. Due to the ability to attain the same results by running different experiments, our confidence in the findings and in the internal validity was bolstered. In general, we both “trust” this study.

Olivia Corkery and Chase Brown


Article link:


APA Citation: 

Haselhuhn, M., Kennedy, J., Kray, L., Van Zant, A., Schweitzer, M. (2015). Gender differences in trust dynamics: Women trust more than men following a trust violation. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 56, 104-109. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2014.09.007.

This entry was posted in PS253-2016. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.