Implicit race attitudes predict trustworthiness judgments and economic trust decisions

Damian A. Stanley, Peter Sokol-Hessner, Mahzarin R. Banaji, Elizabeth A. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Trust lies at the heart of every social interaction. Each day we face decisions in which we must accurately assess another individual's trustworthiness or risk suffering very real consequences. In a global marketplace of increasing heterogeneity with respect to nationality, race, and multiple other social categories, it is of great value to understand how implicitly held attitudes about group membership may support or undermine social trust and thereby implicitly shape the decisions we make. Recent behavioral and neuroimaging work suggests that a common mechanism may underlie the expression of implicit race bias and evaluations of trustworthiness, although no direct evidence of a connection exists. In two behavioral studies, we investigated the relationship between implicit race attitude (as measured by the Implicit Association Test) and social trust. We demonstrate that race disparity in both an individual's explicit evaluations of trustworthiness and, more crucially, his or her economic decisions to trust is predicted by that person's bias in implicit race attitude. Importantly, this relationship is robust and is independent of the individual's bias in explicit race attitude. These data demonstrate that the extent to which an individual invests in and trusts others with different racial backgrounds is related to the magnitude of that individual's implicit race bias. The core dimension of social trust can be shaped, to some degree, by attitudes that reside outside conscious awareness and intention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7710-7715
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 10 2011


  • Behavioral economics
  • Decision making
  • Implicit bias
  • Social attitudes
  • Trust game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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