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Weird reciprocity? A ‘within-culture across-country’ trust experiment and methodological implications

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Economic experiments carried out in the computer laboratory seldom account for broader real-world contextual variables that affect humans as learning and norm-adopting individuals. The here presented ‘within-culture across-country’ design of a standard trust experiment reveals an interesting phenomenon which most probably is related to the context that people live in: South African communities expressed extremely low trust while participants from Namibia exhibited high trust, but low reciprocity, although both share the same ethnic background. The country effect between the two regions remained large even after using a matching estimator to substantiate that these differences were not driven by sample selection bias. Qualitative evidence from the study area suggests that corrupt local institutions have led to lower trust in South African communities while participants in Namibia seemingly applied a deep-rooted behavioural norm of the Nama society which they perceived to be appropriate for the exchange in the experiment.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Journal of Institutional Economics.

Volume (Year): 8 (2012)
Issue (Month): 03 (September)
Pages: 371-397

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jinsec:v:8:y:2012:i:03:p:371-397_00
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