Cognition is a matter of trust: Distrust tunes cognitive processes

Ruth Mayo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The current review proposes that exposure to a specific untrustworthy source of information engages a mode of thought-a distrust mindset-that is also evoked by incidental distrust contexts and by personality characteristics. The review summarises empirical research demonstrating that-in contrast to trust, which leads to the familiar congruent type of cognitive processes-distrust triggers a spontaneous activation of alternatives and incongruent associations for a given concept. These alternatives dilute the activation level of the given concept, indicating that our mind can spontaneously stop the congruent-processing flow. Consequently, distrust blocks congruent effects such as confirmatory biases, accessibility effects, stereotyping, and routine reasoning. Thus, the review suggests that the basic flow of our cognition is (dis)trust dependent. The review concludes with a discussion of the effect of the distrust mindset as a demonstration of (1) situated cognition and (2) a spontaneous negation process.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)283-327
Number of pages45
JournalEuropean Review of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence should be addressed to Ruth Mayo, Psychology Department, The Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem, 9190501, Israel. E-mail: I thank Yaacov Schul for sharing the great interest and awe regarding the distrust mindset. The current review is based on our long-term collaborative research. I thank him and Tali Kleiman for insightful comments on previous versions of this paper. And finally, I am grateful to Norbert Schwarz —without him this review would not have been written. This work was supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF 594/12).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 European Association of Social Psychology.


  • Accessibility
  • Distrust
  • Negation
  • Situated cognition


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