Religious markers and trust under conditions of risk: Field experiment from Mauritius



MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Several evolutionary theories argue that religions provide reliable mechanisms that can stabilize risky coordination. Moving beyond kin-selection and direct reciprocity, these mechanisms help to find trustworthy individuals even under anonymity conditions which might have been critical to the emergence of large-scale societies and encourages cooperation in contemporary complex groups. I will argue that to facilitate cooperation religions require individuals to signal their commitment to cooperative norms. Under anonymous conditions, where group members cannot directly observe ritual participation of their co-religionists, people use religious badges as proxies for commitment otherwise judged through ritual fitness costs. Research on American undergraduates showed that people displaying cues of religious identity are indeed trusted more. Surprisingly, this effect extended even across religious divides, which is in contrast with the assumption that religions evolved to regulate coalitions, often at the expense of other competing groups. Here, we compare religious identity and trust among and between Christians and Hindus living in Mauritius, who rated the trustworthiness of faces, and in a modified Trust Game distributed money amongst these faces. In contrast to previous research, we find that markers of religious identity increase monetary investments only among in-group members suggesting that local ecologies influence the relationship between religion and trust.
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