Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Distrust, Priming, Cognition, Social Cognition, Persuasion, Attitudes

Major Advisor

Kerry L. Marsh

Associate Advisor

Blair T. Johnson

Associate Advisor

Dev Dalal

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Six experiments examined the effects of diffuse distrust on cognition, in order to elucidate the link between the immediate cognitive changes associated with the state and responses to persuasive messages. Five of the present studies addressed two specific mechanisms that appear to account for established non-routine effects – increased contrast sensitivity and cognitive flexibility. Experiment 1 used an imposter detection task (IDT) to induce distrust. It presented participants with 30 statements, to rate the likelihood of each on a 100-point scale. The second half consisted of statements that agreed with, contradicted, or were unrelated to those in the first half. Impostor detection did not have the predicted contrast-sensitizing effect on these plausibility judgments, but values-based medical mistrust was associated with higher judged plausibility of factually-false statements that did not contradict previously-presented statements. Experiment 2 induced distrust via economic deception game (EDG). Four characters, including a medical doctor and a quack, were presented either together or alone. The predicted effect, that doctor and charlatan would be rated less stereotypically by distrusting participants when presented alone, and more when presented together, was not found. Experiment 3 did not find the predicted result that the EDG would make participants agree less with strong arguments for senior comprehensive exams, and more with an anti-exam argument. In Experiment 4, the IDT did not increase completed word stems. In Experiment 5, after the EDG, participants rated the compatibility of statement pairs, and provided explanations of how to make them more compatible. Participants in the distrust condition who believed their partner was real used more words to reconcile the statements, as predicted. Experiment 6 used the EDG and presented participants with a pro-tire-rotation essay, and an anti-tire-rotation essay designed to imitate the rhetorical style of anti-vaccination websites. Participants in the distrust condition were generally more skeptical of the anti-rotation essay, but if they scored highly on medical mistrust, they found it more convincing. The relevance of basic cognitive processes to explicit
attitudes is discussed, and it is concluded that existing beliefs may have important implications for how people respond to deception.