Jessica A. Kennedy, Maurice E. Schweitzer.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Volume 149, November 2018, Pages 111-128
We demonstrate that accusations harm trust in targets, but boost trust in the accuser when the accusation signals that the accuser has high integrity. Compared to individuals who did not accuse targets of engaging in unethical behavior, accusers engendered greater trust when observers perceived the accusation to be motivated by a desire to defend moral norms, rather than by a desire to advance ulterior motives. We also found that the accuser’s moral hypocrisy, the accusation's revealed veracity, and the target’s intentions when committing the unethical act moderate the trust benefits conferred to accusers. Taken together, we find that accusations have important interpersonal consequences.
• Accusing others of unethical behavior can engender greater trust in an accuser.
• Accusations can elevate trust by boosting perceptions of accusers’ integrity.
• Accusations fail to build trust when they are perceived to reflect ulterior motives.
• Morally hypocritical accusers and false accusations fail to build trust.
• Accusations harm trust in the target.
The research is here.