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Triangle Effect and the Connotative Meaning of Trust in Prisoners Dilemma



Two hundred and fortynine male postgraduate students of management played the Prisoner’s Dilemma Game (Deutsch, 1960) and filled out a postgame questionnaire measuring attitude toward the “other player”. Striking differences resulted between trusting and trustworthy subjects on the one hand and suspicious and untrustworthy subjects on the other with respect to different meanings given to the dimension of trust (cooperation) in the interaction. As predicted, trusting behaviour of the other player was given a positively evaluative meaning – good versus bad – by the trusting and trustworthy subjects and negatively dynamism meaning – weak versus strong – by the suspicious and untrustworthy subjects. The trusting players expected the typical other to make either trusting or suspicious moves, whereas the suspicious subjects expected the typical other to be uniformly suspicious, yielding a high Triangularity Index (Kelley and Stahelski, 1970). Most provocatively, while 51% of trusting subjects thought that the other player was a female, 81% from among the suspicious subjects thought so. Some implications of the results in interpersonal and organizational situations are discussed.

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