ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (8): 989-1001.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00989

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The effects of attachment security on interpersonal trust: The moderating role of attachment anxiety

LI Caina1; SUN Ying1; TUO Rui2; LIU Jia1   

  1. (1 School of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University and Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Behavior and Cognitive Neuroscience, Xi’an 710062, China) (2 Tsinghua University High School–Qinhan, Xi’an 712000, China)
  • Received:2015-06-14 Published:2016-08-25 Online:2016-08-25
  • Contact: LI Caina, E-mail:


Both interpersonal trust and attachment are important aspects of human interpersonal relationship. Interpersonal trust is not only one of the most essential quality of intimate relationship, but also a necessary condition for development of commitment and a sense of security. And it includes a variety of people's positive expectations for their partner’s availability, response and caring, all of which are core components of attachment. Attachment is the most important emotional intimacy band through the whole life of an individual, the security base effect of safety attachment affects all aspects of interpersonal and social adaptation of the individuals. The securely attached persons hold positive attitudes toward the availability, sensitivity and reactivity of their partner's responses when they in need, so they will experience higher levels of trust. Previous studies only focused on the relationship between dispositional attachment and interpersonal trust, while recently years, researchers have transformed their focus from dispositional attachment to situational attachment and its positive effect on interpersonal trust. Therefore, present research aimed to examine the impact of attachment security priming on interpersonal trust, and to further extend the Broaden and Build Cycle of attachment security, so as to explore the effective ways to improve individual interpersonal trust. This research adopted two studies to examine the impact of attachment security on interpersonal trust. A 3 (priming groups: attachment security, positive mood, control group) × 3 (target type: trust-related word, trust-unrelated word, non-word) mixed experimental design was conducted in Study 1. After completing the Experiences in Close Relationships scales (ECR) and Interpersonal Trust Scales (ITS), 100 college students were randomly assigned into three priming groups, respectively for attachment security, positive mood and control group. Then all of them finished lexical decision tasks, the target word respectively was trust-related word, trust-unrelated word, and non-word. Study 2 adopted the trust game paradigm to explore the interpersonal trust behavior. 65 college students completed the ECR and ITS one week ago. And then they were randomly assigned into two priming groups, respectively for attachment security and control group. Finally, all the participants finished the trust game task. The results of Study 1 showed that the attachment security priming group’s reaction time of trust-related word was significantly lower than positive mood priming group and control group, and there was non-significant difference between positive mood priming group and control group. The results also found the moderating effect of attachment anxiety. Study 2 indicated that, the participants of attachment security priming group showed more trust behavior than control group, and attachment anxiety moderated the attachment security and trust. These results revealed that attachment security priming could effectively improve the interpersonal trust, and the effect was independent of positive mood priming. The dispositional attachment also served as the moderating role between attachment security priming and interpersonal trust. All of these results confirmed the positive effects of Broaden and Build Cycle of attachment security.

Key words: broaden and build cycle of attachment security, dispositional attachment style, attachment security priming, interpersonal trust