Trust is a universally admired quality of interpersonal relations, be their nature private, professional, economic, or political. However, little is known about how trust can be fostered. One cognitive process that has been suggested as a precursor of trust is perspective-taking, but experimental evidence for a causal relation between the two constructs is missing. In the present article, we investigated whether perspective-taking increases trust in strangers and known interaction partners. Perspective-taking should lead to trust, because it has been shown to increase liking of other people, which itself is an important antecedent of trust. In three high-powered experiments (total N = 612), we investigated the effects of perspective-taking on trust using a novel visuo-spatial manipulation of perspective-taking. In Experiment 1, participants reported feeling more trust for a stranger after engaging in visuo-spatial perspective-taking compared to trials where they remained in their egocentric perspective. Experiment 2 supported the above-mentioned theoretical mechanism that trust in a stranger is increased due to liking and generalized the results from self-reported trust to behavioral trust within a trust game. Experiment 3 demonstrated an important boundary condition of this effect by showing that when the trustworthiness of another person is concurrently directly manipulated by giving participants information about how the other person has behaved in the past, the effects of perspective-taking on behavioral trust vanish, and while its effects on self-reported liking and trust remain intact, they are small in comparison to the effects of direct trustworthiness manipulations on self-reported liking and trust.
- Theory of mind
- Trust game