IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/zur/econwp/304.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The causal effect of trust

Author

Listed:
  • Björn Bartling
  • Ernst Fehr
  • David Huffman
  • Nick Netzer

Abstract

Trust affects almost all human relationships – in families, organizations, markets and politics. However, identifying the conditions under which trust, defined as people's beliefs in the trustworthiness of others, has a causal effect on the efficiency of human interactions has proven to be difficult. We show experimentally and theoretically that trust indeed has a causal effect. The duration of the effect depends, however, on whether initial trust variations are supported by multiple equilibria. We study a repeated principal-agent game with multiple equilibria and document empirically that an efficient equilibrium is selected if principals believe that agents are trustworthy, while players coordinate on an inefficient equilibrium if principals believe that agents are untrustworthy. Yet, if we change the institutional environment such that there is a unique equilibrium, initial variations in trust have short-run effects only. Moreover, if we weaken contract enforcement in the latter environment, exogenous variations in trust do not even have a short-run effect. The institutional environment thus appears to be key for whether trust has causal effects and whether the effects are transient or persistent.

Suggested Citation

  • Björn Bartling & Ernst Fehr & David Huffman & Nick Netzer, 2018. "The causal effect of trust," ECON - Working Papers 304, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:304
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp/econwp304.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gary Charness, 2004. "Attribution and Reciprocity in an Experimental Labor Market," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(3), pages 665-688, July.
    2. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    3. Ernst Fehr, 2009. "On The Economics and Biology of Trust," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 235-266, 04-05.
    4. Philippe Aghion & Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc, 2011. "Civil Society And The State: The Interplay Between Cooperation And Minimum Wage Regulation," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 3-42, February.
    5. Jordi Brandts & Gary Charness, 2004. "Do Labour Market Conditions Affect Gift Exchange? Some Experimental Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 684-708, July.
    6. Guido Tabellini, 2008. "The Scope of Cooperation: Values and Incentives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 905-950.
    7. Iris Bohnet & Steffen Huck, 2004. "Repetition and Reputation: Implications for Trust and Trustworthiness When Institutions Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 362-366, May.
    8. Costa-Gomes, Miguel A. & Huck, Steffen & Weizsäcker, Georg, 2014. "Beliefs and actions in the trust game: Creating instrumental variables to estimate the causal effect," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 298-309.
    9. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
    10. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2012. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 645-677.
    11. Ernst Fehr & Bettina Rockenbach, 2003. "Detrimental effects of sanctions on human altruism," Microeconomics 0305007, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Schwerter, Frederik & Zimmermann, Florian, 2020. "Determinants of trust: The role of personal experiences," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 413-425.
    2. Israel Waichman & Ch’ng Kean Siang & Till Requate & Aric P. Shafran & Eva Camacho-Cuena & Yoshio Iida & Shosh Shahrabani, 2015. "Reciprocity in Labor Market Relationships: Evidence from an Experiment across High-Income OECD Countries," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(4), pages 1-22, October.
    3. Ernst Fehr, 2009. "On The Economics and Biology of Trust," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 235-266, 04-05.
    4. Meier, Stephan & Pierce, Lamar & Vaccaro, Antonino & La Cara, Barbara, 2016. "Trust and in-group favoritism in a culture of crime," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PA), pages 78-92.
    5. Irlenbusch, Bernd & Sliwka, Dirk, 2005. "Incentives, Decision Frames, and Motivation Crowding Out – An Experimental Investigation," IZA Discussion Papers 1758, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Aidin Hajikhameneh & Erik O. Kimbrough, 2019. "Individualism, collectivism, and trade," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 22(2), pages 294-324, June.
    7. Okada, Akira, 2020. "The cultural transmission of trust and trustworthiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 53-69.
    8. Giuseppe Albanese & Guido de Blasio & Paolo Sestito, 2017. "Trust, risk and time preferences: evidence from survey data," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 64(4), pages 367-388, December.
    9. Heineck, Guido & Süssmuth, Bernd, 2013. "A different look at Lenin’s legacy: Social capital and risk taking in the Two Germanies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 789-803.
    10. Calabuig, Vicente & Fatas, Enrique & Olcina, Gonzalo & Rodriguez-Lara, Ismael, 2016. "Carry a big stick, or no stick at all," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 153-171.
    11. Masella, Paolo & Meier, Stephan & Zahn, Philipp, 2014. "Incentives and group identity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 12-25.
    12. Gächter, Simon & Thöni, Christian, 2010. "Social comparison and performance: Experimental evidence on the fair wage-effort hypothesis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 531-543, December.
    13. Lena Detlefsen & Andreas Friedl & Katharina Lima de Miranda & Ulrich Schmidt & Matthias Sutter, 2018. "Are Economic Preferences Shaped by the Family Context? The Impact of Birth Order and Siblings' Sex Composition on Economic Preferences," CESifo Working Paper Series 7362, CESifo.
    14. Jan-Erik Loennqvist & Markku Verkasalo & Gari Walkowitz & Philipp C. Wichardt, 2011. "Measuring Individual Risk Attitudes in the Lab: Task or Ask? An Empirical Comparison," Cologne Graduate School Working Paper Series 02-03, Cologne Graduate School in Management, Economics and Social Sciences.
    15. Matthias Bürker & G. Alfredo Minerva, 2014. "Civic capital and the size distribution of plants: short-run dynamics and long-run equilibrium," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(4), pages 797-847.
    16. Anderlini, Luca & Terlizzese, Daniele, 2017. "Equilibrium trust," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 624-644.
    17. Carpenter, Jeffrey & Dolifka, David, 2017. "Exploitation aversion: When financial incentives fail to motivate agents," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 213-224.
    18. Zubair, Maria & Khanum, Ayesha & Nasir, Marjan, 2018. "Transfer Of Behavioral Traits From Parents To Children: An Experimental Approach," MPRA Paper 92121, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Fehr, Dietmar & Rau, Hannes & Trautmann, Stefan T. & Xu, Yilong, 2020. "Inequality, fairness and social capital," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    20. Simon Gächter & Daniele Nosenzo & Martin Sefton, 2012. "The Impact of Social Comparisons on Reciprocity," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(4), pages 1346-1367, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Trust; causality; equilibrium selection; belief distortions; incomplete contracts; screening; institutions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E02 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Institutions and the Macroeconomy

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:304. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Marita Kieser). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/seizhch.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.