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The cognitive and behavioral impact of promotion and prevention contracts on trust in repeated exchanges

  • Author(s): Weber, Libby;
  • Bauman, Christopher W
  • et al.

Although contracts certainly facilitate exchange, scholars debate whether contracts and trust are complements or substitutes. Recent theoretical work suggests that contract frames influence the relationship between contracts and trust. We test and extend this theorizing by examining the effects of prevention and promotion contract frames on trust and some potential cognitive and emotional mechanisms responsible for them. We also explore how unexpected negative events affect trust developed under different contract frames. Experiment 1 found that promotion contracts fostered stronger attributions of benevolence than prevention contracts, but emotional experiences of the exchanges did not differ. Additionally, trusting intentions were higher following positive exchange experience under promotion than prevention contracts. Experiment 2 found that people were more willing to engage in trusting behavior following positive exchange experience under promotion than prevention contracts. However, violations of exchange expectations were more damaging to trust developed under promotion than prevention contracts. Together, the studies indicate that contract frames and whether exchange experiences are positive or negative affect the relationship between contracts and trust, likely because contract frames influence attributions of benevolence.

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