Understanding the effects of substantive responses on trust following a transgression

Kurt T. Dirks, Peter H. Kim, Donald L. Ferrin, Cecily D. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Four experiments were conducted to investigate the implications of 'substantive' responses for the repair of trust following a violation and the cognitive processes that govern how and when they are effective. These studies examined two forms of substantive responses, penance and regulation, that represent different categories of trust repair attempts. The findings from Studies 1-3 suggest that both can be effective to the extent that they elicit the crucial mediating cognition of perceived repentance. Data from Study 2 revealed that trustors saw signals of repentance as more informative when the transgression was due to a lapse of competence than due to a lapse of integrity. Study 4 compared these substantive responses to apologies (a non-substantive response) and revealed that, despite their surface-level differences, they each repaired trust through 'perceived repentance.' The paper offers an integrative framework for understanding the relationships among a range of trustor responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-103
Number of pages17
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Leadership
  • Repentance
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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