Investigating the effect of trustworthiness on instruction-based reflexivity.


Unlike other species, humans are capable of rapidly learning new behavior from a single instruction. While previous research focused on the cognitive processes underlying the rapid, automatic implementation of instructions, the fundamentally social nature of instruction following has remained largely unexplored. Here, we investigated whether instructor trustworthiness modulates instruction implementation using both explicit and reflexive measures. In a first preregistered study, we validated a new paradigm to manipulate the perceived trustworthiness of two different virtual characters and showed that such a manipulation reliably induced implicit associations between the virtual characters and trustworthiness attributes. Moreover, we show that trustworthy instructors are followed more frequently and faster. In two additional preregistered experiments, we tested if trustworthiness towards the instructor influenced the cognitive processes underlying instruction implementation. While we show that verbally conveyed instructions led to automatic instruction implementation, this effect was not modulated by the trustworthiness of the instructor. Thus, we succeeded to design and validate a novel trustworthiness manipulation (Experiment 1) and to create a social variant of the instruction-based reflexivity paradigm (Experiments 2 and 3). However, this instruction-based reflexivity effect was not modulated by the instructors’ trustworthiness.

Acta Psychologica, 207, 103085