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The Optimistic Trust Effect: Use of Belief in a Just World to Cope with Decision-Generated Threat

  • Andrew E. Wilson
  • Peter R. Darke
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    In a process the authors term just world coping, some consumers use positive beliefs concerning the general benevolence of the world as a resource to cope with marketplace threat. This belief buffers or even, ironically, enhances trust judgments in the face of threat. Three experiments and one replication show that, whereas consumers who do not hold this belief respond to decision-generated threat with distrust, trust is significantly higher for those who believe in a just world (optimistic trust effect). Process evidence shows such coping is automatically activated in response to threat but can be corrected for more normative considerations when an obvious ulterior motive is present. Finally, evidence this coping serves an ego-protective function is provided by manipulating whether consumers are directly threatened. Overall, findings are consistent with the view that belief in a just world operates as a positive illusion that allows consumers to cope with decision threat.

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    Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Journal of Consumer Research.

    Volume (Year): 39 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 615 - 628

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jconrs:doi:10.1086/664499
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