Distrust and the positive test heuristic: Dispositional and situated social distrust improves performance on the wason rule discovery task

Ruth Mayo*, Dana Alfasi, Norbert Schwarz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

Feelings of distrust alert people not to take information at face value, which may influence their reasoning strategy. Using the Wason (1960) rule identification task, we tested whether chronic and temporary distrust increase the use of negative hypothesis testing strategies suited to falsify one's own initial hunch. In Study 1, participants who were low in dispositional trust were more likely to engage in negative hypothesis testing than participants high in dispositional trust. In Study 2, trust and distrust were induced through an alleged person-memory task. Paralleling the effects of chronic distrust, participants exposed to a single distrust-eliciting face were 3 times as likely to engage in negative hypothesis testing as participants exposed to a trust-eliciting face. In both studies, distrust increased negative hypothesis testing, which was associated with better performance on the Wason task. In contrast, participants' initial rule generation was not consistently affected by distrust. These findings provide first evidence that distrust can influence which reasoning strategy people adopt.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)985-990
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume143
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Confirmation bias
  • Distrust
  • Negative testing
  • Reasoning
  • Trust

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