Bad first impression worse than betrayal in relationship

January 8th, 2009 - 2:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 8 (IANS) A bad initial impression is much harder to overcome than an act of betrayal in a relationship built on trust, according to a new study.While betraying trust is always counterproductive, the results show that early violations can be particularly devastating, and plant seeds of doubt that may never go away, said Robert Lount, co-author of the study and assistant professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University.

“First impressions matter when you want to build a lasting trust. If you get off on the wrong foot, the relationship may never be completely right again. It’s easier to rebuild trust after a breach if you already have a strong relationship.”

While the importance of first impressions may seem obvious, Lount said there is still a common theme in popular culture that suggests many great relationships start off badly. The study appeared in a recent issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“Our results fly in the face of this Hollywood notion of hating someone at first sight but then developing a wonderful, passionate relationship,” Lount said. “The likelihood of that happening in real life is pretty low.”

In two related experiments, Lount and his colleagues had college students participate in a game in which their partners violated their trust either right at the beginning of the game or somewhere in the middle.

The goal was to see how much the students were willing to cooperate with the partner after trust was breached, said a Ohio release.

The researchers used a famous game in psychology called the prisoner’s dilemma. In this version, the two players had to decide separately and privately whether they were going to cooperate with each other or defect against their partner in exchange for a monetary reward.

Participants who experienced the immediate breaches of trust had the most negative evaluations of their partners.

Even after 20 rounds of cooperation following the breach of trust, an immediate breach still generated more negative evaluations than did no breaches or late breaches.

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