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The relationship between regulatory focus and trust: The roles of regulatory closure and propensity to trust

Emirza, Sevgi
Karagonlar, Gökhan
Drawing on regulatory focus theory and regulatory closure argument, this study argues that self-regulation mechanisms influence trust among people during anonymous interactions. Prevention focus is generally associated with risk aversion and quest for security and hence expected to induce less trust compared to promotion focus. We proposed and tested the hypothesis that the effect of regulatory focus on trust is moderated by regulatory closure (presence or absence of goal fulfillment). In support of this hypothesis, in the first experiment (N = 146), we found in a trust game that priming individuals with prevention focus led to less trust than priming individuals with promotion focus only when the regulatory goals remained unfulfilled. On the contrary, when regulatory goals are fulfilled, trust did not differ between promotion focus and prevention focus. A second experiment (N=123) showed that as individuals’ propensity to trust decreased, regulatory closure of prevention goals increased trust more than did regulatory closure of promotion goals, suggesting that fulfilling security related goals help increase trust especially among people with low propensity to trust. These findings provide a greater understanding concerning how and when regulatory focus influences interpersonal trust among strangers.