Accessibility is a matter of trust: Dispositional and contextual distrust blocks accessibility effects

Tali Kleiman*, Noa Sher, Andrey Elster, Ruth Mayo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Accessibility effects
  • Distrust
  • Priming
  • Situated-cognition


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