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Fibbing about your Feelings: When Feigning Happiness in the Face of Personal Distress Increases Trust
Keywords: emotional misrepresentation; trust; affect; social cognition
Abstract: Individuals who experience personal distress face a dilemma when they enter the workplace: should they authentically express their negative emotion when conversing with colleagues, or feign happiness? Across four experiments, using face-to-face interactions, as well as video and scenario-based stimuli, we explore the trust implications of emotional misrepresentation within everyday workplace conversations. In Studies 1 and 2, we find that individuals who feign happiness are more likely to get hired and are trusted more by others, despite also being perceived as more dishonest. In Study 3, we disentangle verbal and nonverbal emotional misrepresentation, and in Study 4, we document the moderating effect of personal versus professional context. This research deepens our understanding of emotion regulation, authenticity, and trust, by revealing the consequences of emotion regulation in mixed motive settings and demonstrating that emotional misrepresentation, unlike many other forms of misrepresentation, can increase trust.