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IACM 2023

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We Are Less Envious of Those We Trust: Two Mitigating Roles of Trust On The Development of Envy and Harmful Behaviors

When one compares unfavorably to another person (e.g., a co-worker or colleague who received a coveted promotion), one often becomes envious and may wish to harm the envied person. We draw on theoretical perspectives about interpersonal trust to show how parties’ pre-existing trust—prior to the envy-inducing event—influences whether and how envy develops. Across five studies (total N = 1,065) using measured and manipulated trust and three different facets of envy and harmful behaviors, we document that trust has two distinct moderating roles in the envy process. First, in Studies 1 and 2, we show that trust minimizes perceivers’ feeling of envy after ‘losing’ to a target person. When trust is high, there is a weaker relationship between ‘losing’ and envy than when trust is low. Second, in Studies 3A, 3B and 4, we show that high trust in the target buffers the extent to which perceivers’ envy impacts their harmful behaviors toward the target. When trust is high, envious perceivers are less likely to harm the target and the relationship between felt envy and harmful intentions is weaker. Taken together, we identify interpersonal trust as a crucial moderator of both envy development and the negative consequences of envy.

Einav Hart
George Mason University
United States

Rachel Campagna
U. of New Hampshire
United States


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