Politicians and trustworthiness: Acting contrary to self-interest enhances trustworthiness

David J.Y. Combs, Peggy S. Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Trustworthiness is an important characteristic for politicians to possess. However, politicians are perceived as manifestly untrustworthy. One way politicians might build trustworthiness is to behave in a manner that seems contrary to self-interest. Three studies examined whether acting contrary to self-interest can help build trustworthiness. In each study, participants reacted to political content in which a politician acted contrary to self-interest (praised an opponent) or acted in a more common and self-serving manner (e.g., attacked opponent or praised the self). Participants perceived the candidate who acted contrary to self-interest as more trustworthy than candidates who acted in a more self-serving manner. Participants were also more willing to consider voting for such a candidate. These results were not constrained by party affiliation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-339
Number of pages12
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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