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Religion, discrimination and trust across three cultures

Religion, discrimination and trust across three cultures

Swee Hoon Chuah, Simon Gächter, Robert Hoffmann, and Jonathan Tan

Understanding the role of religion-based discrimination in trusting and in trustworthy behaviour when interacting with people from various social groups or cultures is important, because conflict between and within different religions is rising globally. Religion can influence economic behaviour in at least two ways, by creating differential social group identities and through individual differences in religiosity, ie the strength of an individual's religious attachment or commitment to a particular faith commonly measured as religious belief, ritual and experience.

In this paper published the special issue on Social Identity at the European Economic Review, Swee Hoon Chuah, Simon Gächter, Robert Hoffmann, and Jonathan Tan propose that religion impacts trust and trustworthiness in ways that depend on how individuals are socially identified and connected. They call closeness in religion-based relationships religious connectedness, and argue that individual religiosity operates through religious connectedness to affect trust. The study considers four forms of religious identity: (1) a connection at the fundamental level of individual religiosity; (2) group membership based on religious affiliation to the same creed; (3) religious affinity arising from the mere affiliation to some religion, regardless of creed; and (4) religious anonymity, where religiosity effects operate on the wider societal level of prejudice across social identities including non-religious ones.

In turn, four corresponding religious discrimination effects on trust and trustworthiness are examined. Religiosity and religious affiliation may serve as markers for statistical discrimination. Further, affiliation to the same religion may enhance group identity, or affiliation irrespective of creed may lend social identity, and in turn induce taste-based discrimination. Religiosity may also relate to general prejudice. These hypotheses are tested across three culturally diverse countries. Participants' willingness to discriminate, beliefs of how trustworthy or trusting others are, as well as actual trust and trustworthiness are measured incentive compatibly. The authors find that interpersonal similarities in religiosity and affiliation promote trust through beliefs of reciprocity. Religious participants also believe that those belonging to some faith are trustworthier, but invest more trust only in those of the same religion - religiosity amplifies this effect. Across non-religious categories, whereas more religious participants are more willing to discriminate, less religious participants are as likely to display group biases.

European Economic Review, "Religion, discrimination and trust across three cultures", by Swee Hoon Chuah, Simon Gächter, Robert Hoffmann, and Jonathan Tan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2016.05.004

 

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Posted on Monday 7th November 2016

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