Et Tu, Brute? Unraveling the puzzle of deception and broken trust in close relations

David Shulman*, Kent Grayson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Embeddedness theory and relational work theory propose that people in close social relations naturally have better information about partners, which helps safeguard and optimize their relationships. Yet, researchers have noted that despite access to better information, broken trust still occurs. Why? We identify two factors that systematically keep access to information from working as anticipated: detection errors, which prevent people from effectively accessing and processing information, and associational dilemmas, which hinder using the information to report and punish deception. We also consider how relational work can sustain or amplify these factors and foster relational matches that give the false impression of being based on shared meanings and understandings. For example, detection errors and associational dilemmas can place victims into illusory solidarity where, despite appearing close, they are stuck with opportunistic partners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1967-1986
Number of pages20
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023


  • deception
  • economic sociology
  • embeddedness
  • social theory
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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