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The traits one can trust: Dissecting reciprocity and kindness as determinants of trustworthy behavior

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Thielmann, I., & Hilbig, B. E. (2015). The traits one can trust: Dissecting reciprocity and kindness as determinants of trustworthy behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(11), 1523-1536. doi:10.1177/0146167215600530.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-E930-A
Trustworthiness is a vital pillar of various social interactions hinging upon trust. However, the underlying determinants of trustworthiness—especially in terms of (basic) personality traits—are insufficiently understood. Specifically, three mechanisms underlying trustworthiness have been proposed: unconditional kindness, positive reciprocity, and negative reciprocity. The present research aims to disentangle these mechanisms using a trait-based approach, relying on the HEXACO (Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, eXtraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience) model of personality. In three studies, participants acted as the trustee in the trust game. All studies revealed consistent support for the unconditional kindness mechanism, showing an exclusive link between Honesty-Humility and trustworthiness, irrespective of the level of prior trust. In turn, positive and negative reciprocity could not account for the pattern of results. In addition, our results reconcile the inconsistent evidence on the relation between Big Five-Agreeableness and trustworthiness: Unconditional kindness only refers to one component of the broad Big Five-Agreeableness factor (which subsumes various cooperative tendencies).