Guilt by association is the phenomenon that occurs when one party is distrusted because of its connection to another party that has done something wrong. Guilt by association is a kind of heuristic, or mental shortcut, that people use to decide which companies share their values. This entry explains how guilt by association works and discusses several applications of this concept for corporate reputation management.

The Concept of Guilt by Association

When people or organizations violate society’s standards, they are considered guilty of wrongdoing. Typically, these wrongdoers are perceived to be untrustworthy until they take steps to atone for their guilt (e.g., by apologizing). This guilt is the wrongdoers’ responsibility because it is based on their own actions. However, sometimes other parties are also considered untrustworthy because ...

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