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Perceived Trustworthiness of Knowledge Sources:
The Moderating Impact of Relationship Length

Daniel Z. Levin

Rutgers University

Ellen M. Whitener
University of Virginia

Rob Cross
University of Virginia

Journal of Applied Psychology, September 2006, Vol. 91, No. 5, pp. 1163-1171.

Bright Idea Award in Management (2007), sponsored by Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University and the NJPRO Foundation. An earlier version of this paper appeared in the 2004 Best Papers Proceedings of the Academy of Management.


Prior meta-analytic evidence has indicated no association between relationship length and perceived trustworthiness. Viewing trustors as information processors, we propose a model in which relationship length, while having no direct effect on perceived trustworthiness, moderates the association between perceived trustworthiness and the basis on which people decide to trust each other. Specifically, as trustors learn about others, they base their trust on different kinds of information (demographic similarity, trustworthy behavior, and shared perspective). Hierarchical multiple regression analyses of a field survey of supervisors and subordinates from three companies (n = 88) provide evidence consistent with this prediction: perceived trustworthiness is associated with demographic similarity in newer relationships; with trustworthy behavior in relationships that are neither brand new nor old, but in-between; and with shared perspective in older relationships.

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