Individualists Trust People, Collectivists Trust the State
Culture, Cooperation, and the General Welfare
Nick Berigan & Kyle Irwin, Social Psychology Quarterly, December 2011, Pages 341-360
Abstract: Solutions to social dilemmas require cooperation. Given that there are
commonly multiple avenues for cooperation, sometimes social dilemmas require coordination of strategies in addition to sufficient cooperation to be successful. This study examines one social dilemma where such coordination is necessary: supporting the general welfare. Using World Values Survey data from 33 nations, we compare active membership in charitable organizations versus attitudes toward government welfare programs as examples of two different types of cooperation. We argue that culture influences the form of cooperation a group adopts via the amount of trust it generates. Specifically, individualist cultures promote relatively high levels of trust, which produce first-order cooperation (here, involvement in
charitable organizations). Collectivist cultures generate relatively low trust levels, facilitating second-order cooperation (here, greater support for government welfare programs). Findings support our arguments and thus suggest that culture, mediated by trust, shapes individuals’ perceptions about creating and sustaining public goods.
I would be interested in Mr. Overwater's reaction. Am I misinterpreting this? Do I have the causation backwards?