“A person’s mood may determine how much they rely on subtle – or not so subtle — cues when evaluating whether to trust someone,” said Robert Lount, author of the study and assistant professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
In five separate experiments, Lount found that people in a positive mood were more likely than those in a neutral mood to follow cues or stereotypes when determining whether they should trust someone.
If you are predisposed to trust a stranger – because he belongs to the same club as you, or he has a “trustworthy” face — a happy mood makes you even more likely to trust him.
But if you are predisposed to not trust him, a positive mood will make you even less trusting than normal.
“I think the assumption is that if you make someone happy, they are going to be more likely to trust you. But that only works if they are already predisposed to trust you,” Lount said.
“If you’re a professional meeting new clients, you may think if you buy them a nice lunch and make them happy, you’re building trust. But that can actually backfire if the client has some reason to be suspicious of you,” he said.