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Trustworthiness is a Social Norm, but Trusting is Not

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Author Info

  • Cristina Bicchieri

    ()
    (University of Pennsylvania, USA)

  • Erte Xiao

    (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

  • Ryan Muldoon

    (University of Western Ontario, Canada)

Abstract

Previous literature has demonstrated the important role that trust plays in developing and maintaining well-functioning societies. However, if we are to learn how to increase levels of trust in society, we must first understand why people choose to trust others. One potential answer to this is that people view trust as normative: there is a social norm for trusting that imposes punishment for noncompliance. To test this, we report data from a survey with salient rewards to elicit people's attitudes regarding the punishment of distrusting behavior in a trust game. Our results show that people do not behave as though trust is a norm. Our participants expected that most people would not punish untrusting investors, regardless of whether the potential trustee was a stranger or a friend. In contrast, our participants behaved as though being trustworthy is a norm. Most participants believed that most people would punish someone who failed to reciprocate a stranger's or a friend's trust. We conclude that, while we were able to reproduce previous results establishing that there is a norm of reciprocity, we found no evidence for a corresponding norm of trust, even among friends.

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File URL: http://ppe.sagepub.com/content/10/2/170.abstract
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by in its journal Politics, Philosophy & Economics.

Volume (Year): 10 (2011)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 170-187

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Handle: RePEc:sae:pophec:v:10:y:2011:i:2:p:170-187

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Related research

Keywords: trust; reciprocity; social norms; punishment;

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Cited by:
  1. Chavez, Alex K. & Bicchieri, Cristina, 2013. "Third-party sanctioning and compensation behavior: Findings from the ultimatum game," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 268-277.
  2. Liang, Pinghan & Meng, Juanjuan, 2013. "Love me, love my dog: an experimental study on social connections and indirect reciprocity," MPRA Paper 45270, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Evans, Anthony M. & Athenstaedt, Ursula & Krueger, Joachim I., 2013. "The development of trust and altruism during childhood," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 82-95.
  4. Fairley, Kim & Sanfey, Alan & Vyrastekova, Jana & Weitzel, Utz, 2012. "Social risk and ambiguity in the trust game," MPRA Paper 42302, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Jieyao Ding, 2012. "A Portfolio of Dilemmas: Experimental Evidence on Choice Bracketing in a Mini-Trust Game," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2012_06, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.

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