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When Social Constraints Increase Trust: Considering Causal Attributions as a Source of Treatment Effect Heterogeneity

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Document pages: 49 pages

Abstract: The degree to which social constraints promote or undermine trust remains unknown. One classic perspective suggests that trust blossoms in the presence of social constraints, while another influential school of thought proposes that social constraints wither trust. I integrate both traditions and hypothesize that social constraints increase trust, but only to the extent that individuals attribute another’s perceived trustworthiness to the situation. As individuals increasingly attribute another’s perceived trustworthiness to dispositional factors, the positive effect of social constraints on trust declines and approaches zero. I address this debate and test my integrated model by designing two novel web-based vignette experiments of simulated car repair and group project scenarios. Findings from two large crowdsourced samples (N = 1,388 and N = 1,419) support my integrated model. Implications for existing theories and future research are discussed.

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