Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Regaining trust after a transgression

14.10.2011
Study co-authored by USC Marshall professor finds that perceived repentance is critical element to re-establish trust

The scene has become all too familiar – the disgraced politician, chastened business leader or shamed celebrity standing before a podium offering up their apologies as the news cameras flash. "Sorry" may be the hardest word to say, but does simply owning up to misdeeds do anything toward regaining trust after a transgression or are words, as some say, cheap?

According to a recent paper by researchers at USC, Washington University in St. Louis, Singapore Management University and the University of Miami, it depends on the how the audience perceives the apology. The researchers investigated what is called substantive efforts to repair trust--those responses to trust violations that are more significant than a verbal apology or promise such as punishment, regulation or policies designed to prevent future transgressions. The researchers concluded that the ability of each method to repair trust hinged on the extent to which the response by the alleged trust violator showed that the violator was truly repentant.

The four-part study, detailed in an article in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, was conducted by Peter Kim, associate professor of management and organization at USC Marshall School of Business; Kurt Dirks, Bank of America professor of managerial leadership at Washington University's John M. Olin School of Business; Donald Ferrin, associate professor of organizational behavior and human resources at Singapore's Lee Kong Chian School of Business; and Cecily Cooper, associate professor of management at Miami's Department of Management.

Participants in the U.S. and Singapore took part in four experiments, two of which had participants make a series of trust-related decisions in a game with a virtual partner who would, at a designated point in the match, violate their trust by keeping all the money earned cooperatively in previous rounds. The two other studies meanwhile, assessed participants' opinion of a fictional CEO who asked his employees to take a pay cut and failed to follow suit, breaking a promise to refuse dividends from his preferred stock holdings.

The research, detailed in the article "Understanding the Effects of Substantive Responses on Trust Following a Transgression," showed that nothing beat showing true contrition in terms of winning back trust.

Why is this presumed to work? According to the study, it is about perception and activating an impression of repentance in the wronged individual's mind, thus reinforcing that the perpetrator is unlikely to violate trust again. To communicate repentance, the violator must show that he/she regrets his/her actions, that he/she is committed to reform, and has the resolve to act differently in the future.

Preventative measures, calls for regulation and even promises of financial remediation did less in some cases than simply and convincingly apologizing to the wronged parties. When coupled with a believable apology, however, substantive methods like regulation were effective, more so depending on whether the violation was due to incompetence, which participants found easier to forgive, than lack of integrity. 1 "We want to know that the person has changed somehow, that their character has changed. The trust repair responses we explore, even though they differ in costliness, the approach and so on, the extent at which they work hinges on their ability to signal perceived repentance," said Kim.

Kim pointed to the recent sexting scandal involving former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner as a relevant example of the study's core findings.

"The fact that he resigned from Congress, it's clear that he did so involuntarily so that resignation isn't going to restore trust in him at all," said Kim. "If it had been seen as him doing so voluntarily and that he was punishing himself and doing so because he really was repentant that would have been far more effective than the same objective outcome. Leaving Congress because it was imposed on him, that punishment is not able to signal that sense of repentance."

The fallout from the phone-hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's News Corp remains to be seen, but Kim, citing his trust research, said their success will depend on several factors.

"If News Corp offered a trust repair response voluntarily that's going to be more effective. Should they apologize and then offer some sort of compensation to the victims? Should they ask for some government oversight of their policies and practices? If it's seen just as a payoff rather than them being truly sorry about what happened then that's going to be less effective as well. All of this hinges on that signal of repentance ."

Amy Blumenthal | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.usc.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>