The Effect of Relationship Experience on Trust Recovery Following a Breach

Oliver Schilke
Martin Reimann
Proceedings of the Natonal Academy of Science (PNAS)

A violation of trust can have quite different consequences, depending on the nature of the relationship in which the trust breach occurs. In this article, we identify a key relationship characteristic that affects trust recovery: the extent of relationship experience before the trust breach. Across two experiments, this investigation establishes the behavioral effect that greater relationship experience before a trust breach fosters trust recovery. A neuroimaging experiment provides initial evidence that this behavioral effect is possible because of differential activation of two brain systems: while decision making after early trust breaches engages structures of a controlled social cognition system (C-system), specifically the anterior cingulate cortex and lateral frontal cortex, decision making after later trust breaches engages structures of an automatic social cognition system (X-system), specifically the lateral temporal cortex. The present findings make contributions to both social psychological theory and the neurophysiology of trust.