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J Appl Psychol. 2015 Jul;100(4):1012-24. doi: 10.1037/apl0000007. Epub 2015 Jan 19.

Sinking slowly: Diversity in propensity to trust predicts downward trust spirals in small groups.

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Management Department.
Department of Organizational Behavior, London Business School.


This paper examines the phenomenon of trust spirals in small groups. Drawing on literature on the spiral reinforcement of trust, we theorize that diversity in propensity to trust has affective and cognitive consequences related to trust (i.e., feelings of frustration and perceptions of low similarity), reducing the level of experienced intragroup trust early in a group's development. Reduced experienced trust then fuels relationship conflict and lowers trust even further over time, ultimately having a negative effect on group performance. These ideas are tested using a sample of MBA student groups surveyed at 3 time periods over 4 months. Results confirm our hypothesis that diversity in propensity to trust is sufficient to trigger a downward trust spiral and poor performance in small groups.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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