UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome Professor Pri Shah,University of Minnesota, to host a research seminar discussing ‘When Friends Make Us Trust Less: A Social Network Approach to Understanding Trustworthiness Judgments’.
In this article, we show how friendship network structures influence trustworthiness judgments. We do so by integrating attribution and social network theories to posit how a trustor’s centrality and a trustor and trustee’s mutual third-party ties affect perceived trustworthiness and by testing our hypotheses using two field studies. The study results affirm that trustors who are more central in a friendship network have lower perceptions of others’ trustworthiness. Moreover, this trustor centrality effect is moderated by the direct trustor-trustee relationship: the negative effect of trustor friendship centrality is amplified when the trustor and trustee are not friends. In contrast, trustors who share mutual friends with trustees raise their trustworthiness perceptions, but only when the trustee is not a friend. Our results support attributional arguments for this third-party effect and reject behavioral constraint arguments suggested by social network research. We contribute to the trust literature by showing how trustors’ causal attributions are affected by the social network in which they are embedded.