Trust and self-control: The moderating role of the default

Full article:
According to recent dual-process theories, interpersonal trust is influenced by both impulsive and deliberative processes. The present research explores the determinants of deliberative trust, investigating how trust decisions are affected by the availability of cognitive resources. We test the interaction of two relevant factors: self-control (the ability to exert mental control over one’s behavior) and the default response (a preselected option that requires minimal or no effort). Past research has shown that self-control has extensive effects on social behavior and decision making. Here, we report that the effect of self-control on trust depends on the default. Across two studies, we find no direct link between self control and trust. Instead, self-control affects trust indirectly by influencing the level of effort in decision making. Poor self-control (due to experimental depletion or trait-based differences) predicts adherence to the default—the response that requires the least effort.