Shaming Wrongdoers Makes You Appear More Trustworthy, Study Says

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Shaming Wrongdoers Makes You Appear More Trustworthy, Study Says
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Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
2 min read

If you've ever gone out with a group of co-workers to air your grievances after a day dealing with the boss from hell, it's certainly cathartic, but it can also show your colleagues that they can trust you -- even if you don’t realize you're doing it.

A recent study from Yale found that people who punish and shame organizations and individuals for wrongdoing, even if they aren't directly affected, are seen as more trustworthy. And it isn't just calling out terrible co-workers, but choosing to do things like joining a boycott or becoming a whistleblower.

Related: 5 Ways to Create a Culture of Trust

The lead authors of the study, Ph.D student Jillian J. Jordan and psychology professor David Rand, developed a mathematical model to explore their hypothesis that "it can be advantageous for individuals to punish selfishness in order to signal that they are not selfish themselves."

In the experiment, one person was asked whether he or she would part with money to punish someone who had done something wrong. Meanwhile, another person observing the interaction would then decide whether he or she would give money to that first person, depending on that individual's actions towards the wrongdoer.

Related: 10 Ways You Can Gain Trust Online

The authors of the study found that those observers were more likely to give money to the people who had decided to punish offenders. “And they were right to be more trusting -- punishers really were more trustworthy, and returned more money,” Jordan said in a release from the university.

The act of shaming these troublemakers is known as third-party punishment, or TPP. While it can certainly be seen as self-sacrificing, the researchers explained that this might not always be the case. "Although TPP may often appear 'altruistic,' we show how punishing can be self-interested in the long run because of reputational benefits. Sometimes punishing wrongdoers is the best way to show you care."

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