Despite normative predictions from economics and biology, unrelated strangers will often develop the trust necessary to reap gains from one-shot economic exchange opportunities. This appears to be especially true when declared intentions and emotions can be cheaply communicated. Perhaps even more puzzling to economists and biologists is the observation that anonymous and unrelated individuals, known to have breached trust, often make effective use of cheap signals, such as promises and apologies, to encourage trust re-extension. We used a pair of trust games with one-way communication and an emotion survey to investigate the role of emotions in regulating the propensity to message, apologize, re-extend trust, and demonstrate trustworthiness. This design allowed us to observe the endogenous emergence and natural distribution of trust-relevant behaviors, remedial strategies used by promise-breakers, their effects on behavior, and subsequent outcomes. We found that emotions triggered by interaction outcomes are predictable and also predict subsequent apology and trust re-extension. The role of emotions in behavioral regulation helps explain why messages are produced, when they can be trusted, and when trust will be re-extended.
Schniter E and Sheremeta RM (2014) Predictable and predictive emotions: explaining cheap signals and trust re-extension. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 8:401. DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00401