In my latest answer, I explained the concepts of benevolence-based trust and integrity-based trust:

Intentions are more important than honesty for building benevolence-based trust.

So, a pro-social deception, even if found out, can still make Alice trust that your friend has good intentions towards her. [...]

Although prosocial lies increase benevolence-based trust, they harm integrity-based trust.

Meaning that next time Alice asks your friend if a dress looks good on her, and your friend answers with yes, Alice might think twice before taking that as an answer: She might start wondering if you're just being kind or really being honest.

I'm currently in a situation with a few people where there's a lot of benevolence-based trust, but it's getting in the way of the integrity-based trust.

For example, there's been some private stuff going on that has my mother regularly voicing she feels like a bad mom. Whenever I tell her that's not true, and that she did a good job of raising all her kids, and that whatever those kids are struggling with now isn't her fault, she flat out thanks me for my kind words, but you can see she doesn't believe them.

I do want her to believe me though, and I've told her such. It doesn't help much. I tried being more honest and avoiding any pro-social deceptions, but that's not doing much good either. It mostly leads to people believing I'm only honest when I have something to say that isn't all that kind.

I realize that due to some past interactions with these people, while they still trust I have good intentions, they just can't get themselves to trust that I am also speaking the truth. I'd like to restore a certain balance here, work back to a relationship with these people where they can trust I have good intentions and also trust me to be honest whenever I say something kind.

When there's a severe unbalance between levels of benevolence-based trust and integrity-based trust, what techniques are scientifically proven ways to restore a certain level of integrity-based trust?

NOTE: This question is about academic research on this topic and scientifically proven ways to restore integrity-based trust. As such, answers should link to research, not just personal experience, to meet our citation expectations.

  • Are you asking about scientifically proven ways to increase your mothers self confidence (which I, purposefully using that description, would not necessarily construct as only as a trust issue), or are you posting a hypothetical / explanatory example in search for a - somewhat specific - soc-psych mechanism?
    – Stian
    Sep 27, 2019 at 11:48
  • @StianYttervik The latter. The situation with mom is an explanatory example I used to illustrate the unbalance that can be there and the problems it may lead to, and I'm hoping someone can dig up some scientific studies that show there's an interpersonal skills way to address this unbalance.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Sep 27, 2019 at 12:07
  • You may want to have a look at the study by Kim et al. [1] (which is related, but does not directly answer your question). [1] Kim, Peter H., et al. "Removing the shadow of suspicion: the effects of apology versus denial for repairing competence-versus integrity-based trust violations." Journal of applied psychology 89.1 (2004): 104.
    – simplemind
    Sep 29, 2019 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


A point mentioned in the question is that you have "unbalance between levels of benevolence-based trust and integrity-based trust". I think this is a misconception of trust as being per-nature quanta that could be independently high or low. Trust as a metric or collection of metric is highly criticized.

Trust escapes a simple measurement because its meaning is too subjective for universally reliable metrics, and the fact that it is a mental process, unavailable to instruments.

Trust is invariably bound to a decision (to trust or not) which can be decided by a lot more factors than the level of trust itself for the given situation. If I prepare food, I know my boyfriend will lie a certain amount of the time when he says it's good, how likely I evaluate he lies will depend of the amount of times I caught him lying, but also depend of things like my self confidence, the preferences I know of him, the food itself, the tone of his voice, and if the dishes are empty or not. The infinite variety of situation-relationships-evaluations can't be broken down to numbers or evaluation of "high trust" or "low trust". If these quantities ever exist, they are near impossible to differentiate from the noise of the situational complexity.

There is a strong argument against the use of simplistic metrics to measure trust due to the complexity of the process and the 'embeddedness' of trust that makes it impossible to isolate trust from related factors.

There is however a field of study for trust as quanta, usually related to reputation or loyalty as measured by people's behavior toward firms, with the quantities studied being the sum decisions to buy on not, or people's behavior toward politicians with the amount of vote and vote intentions. There is also study of the result of economical games between participants, usually variants of prisoner's dilemna. They won't be able to reflect situation close to the ones you exposed as an example, but provide interesting insights to trust repair in general.

Apologizing for previous integrity infringement is an effective way to repair integrity trust according to this paper.

Results revealed apology as a double-edged sword; it repairs trust more successfully than refusal and excuse because it is evaluated as more credible. However, it is less successful than refusal and excuse because it is evaluated as more responsible.

Unless I understood wrong they mean when you apologize you are more likely to face consequences but also more likely to repair trust than finding excuses or denying.

Trust repair also involve other strategies, such as the ones detailed here and here

Short-term strategies include verbal statements such as excuses, apologies, and denials, and compensatory arrangements such as repayment for a loss. Longer-term strategies include structural rearrangements of the relationship (e.g., contracts, monitoring), reframing the violation (e.g., attempts to shift blame, mitigate perceptions of harm), granting forgiveness, and remaining silent.

And oh well, if everything else fails, Wikipedia also suggest the use of drugs.

[Trust] can be traced to the neurobiological structure and activity of a human brain. Some studies indicate that trust can be altered e.g. by the application of oxytocin.

  • 1
    let's hope the bounty is not for the last sentence. :')
    – Walfrat
    Mar 10, 2021 at 11:30

Prior work has often assumed trust to be fragile—easily broken and difficult to repair. We investigate this proposition in a laboratory study and find that trust harmed by untrustworthy behavior can be effectively restored when individuals observe a consistent series of trustworthy actions. Trust harmed by the same untrustworthy actions and deception, however, never fully recovers—even when deceived participants receive a promise, an apology, and observe a consistent series of trustworthy actions. We also find that a promise to change behavior can significantly speed the trust recovery process, but prior deception harms the effectiveness of a promise in accelerating trust recovery.

Maurice E.Schweitzer, John C.Hershey, Eric T.Bradlow. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Volume 101, Issue 1, September 2006, Pages 1-19

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