Conflict and trust: the mediating effects of emotional arousal and self‐conscious emotions

Mingkai J. Chen (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia)
Oluremi B. Ayoko (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Publication date: 10 February 2012



Researchers suggest that trust building may be challenging in the face of conflict. However, there is an emerging proposition that conflict is critical for trust. Using affective events and attribution theories as a framework, the purpose of this paper is to present a model of the mediating effects of positive emotional arousal and self‐conscious emotions in the relationship between conflict and trust.


Data were collected from 325 students enrolled in varied postgraduate programs in a large business school. The authors employed Preacher and Hayes's bootstrapping SPSS macros to test the direct and mediation effects of the connection between conflict, emotions and trust.


Results showed that task, relationship and process conflict were associated with differing aspects of positive emotional arousal (enthusiasm, excitement) and self‐conscious emotions (guilt and shame). Similarly, behavioural guilt was linked with trust while emotions mediated the link between conflict and trust.

Research limitations/implications

The authors acknowledge that there are possible covariates (e.g. how long ago did the conflict occur?) with the variables used in the current study. Future research should include such covariates in the study of the relationship between conflict emotions and trust. Also, the data were largely cross‐sectional, drawn from a relatively small sample. In future, researchers should examine similar constructs with longitudinal data and in large organisational sample. In spite of the above limitations, the validity of the results presented in this paper is not compromised. The study extends self‐conscious emotions literature by demonstrating that guilt and shame have cognitive and behavioural properties and with differing connections with conflict and trust.

Practical implications

The paper's findings suggest that managers who want to engender trust in conflict situations should stimulate task conflict to arouse enthusiasm and excitement. These discrete emotions are critical for building integrity based trust. Alternatively, by managing reparative emotions of guilt effectively, managers may increase levels of perceived trust. Overall, the results suggest that focusing on the effect of conflict on trust without considering the positive emotional arousal and self‐conscious emotions could yield disappointing outcomes.


The study provides new insights into the influence of conflict on trust and the mediating role of emotions (e.g. guilt and shame) in the link between conflict and trust. The paper also offers a practical assistance to individuals interested in building trust, especially in the face of conflict.



Chen, M. and Ayoko, O. (2012), "Conflict and trust: the mediating effects of emotional arousal and self‐conscious emotions", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 19-56.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.