Betrayal Aversion: When Agents of Protection Become Agents of Harm

Org. Behav. & Hum. Decision Processes, Vol. 90, p. 244, 2003

18 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2009 Last revised: 7 Feb 2011

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

A form of betrayal occurs when agents of protection cause the very harm that they are entrusted to guard against. Examples include the military leader who commits treason and the exploding automobile air bag. We conducted five studies that examined how people respond to criminal betrayals, safety product betrayals, and the risk of future betrayal by safety products. We found that people reacted more strongly (in terms of punishment assigned and negative emotions felt) to acts of betrayal than to identical bad acts that do not violate a duty or promise to protect. We also found that, when faced with a choice among pairs of safety devices (air bags, smoke alarms, and vaccines), most people preferred inferior options (in terms of risk exposure) to options that included a slim (0.01%) risk of betrayal. However, when the betrayal risk was replaced by an equivalent non-betrayal risk, the choice pattern was reversed. Apparently, people are willing to incur greater risks of the very harm they seek protection from to avoid the mere possibility of betrayal.

Keywords: Risk, betrayal, protection cause

Suggested Citation

Koehler, Jonathan J. and Gershoff, Andrew, Betrayal Aversion: When Agents of Protection Become Agents of Harm (2003). Org. Behav. & Hum. Decision Processes, Vol. 90, p. 244, 2003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1469681

Jonathan J. Koehler (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Andrew Gershoff

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
69
Abstract Views
576
rank
365,090
PlumX Metrics