Distrust poses a challenge to human cognition because it signals that information from the environment should not be taken at face value. Accordingly, in the present research, we argue and show that distrust, both as a chronic disposition and as a contextual factor, blocks accessibility effects. We report five studies in which distrust is either measured (Studies 2 and 3) or manipulated (Studies 1, 4 and 5), and test the "distrust-blocks-accessibility hypothesis" on both verbal and non-verbal accessibility effects. We first elucidate the nature of the distrust mindset and show that distrust inherently entails the activation of alternatives to the original accessible concept thus undermining the preeminence of the prime (Study 1). We then show that distrust blocks accessibility using the "Donald" task (Study 2), the "Halo Effect" task (Study 3), an embodiment paradigm (Study 4), and an applied context of web advertising (Study 5). We conclude that the human mind is sensitive and flexible enough to block any influence from the environment if it seems unreliable. We discuss the novel implications of this perspective for both distrust and accessibility research.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Yaacov Schul for insightful comments on previous versions of this paper, and Lawrence Williams for sharing research materials used in Study 4. This research was funded by an Israel Science Foundation Grant (ISF 594/12 ) to Ruth Mayo.
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.
- Accessibility effects