Threats and promises: Reputational consequences and transfer of credibility

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This study was designed to investigate the reputational consequences of making threats and promises and how they affect subsequent credibility. Eighty-eight high school girls were given predetermined information about the past behavior of their pairmates prior to receiving influence attempts from them. Each first learned that her pairmate had (1) threatened or promised in the past and then learned whether she had (2) fulfilled or failed to fulfill her threat or promise. The subject herself then received a threat or promise from her pairmate. As anticipated, threateners were viewed less favorably than promisers. These impressions were maintained when it was learned that commitments had been fulfilled, but altered decidedly when it was learned that they had not. Credibility or lack of it was found to generalize from threats to promises and from promises to threats only under some conditions. It was concluded that the fit between existing impressions and proclaimed future activity, not a person's record for past reliability, is often the critical determinant of whether or not she is judged to be credible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-324
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1974

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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