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Is participation in high-status culture a signal of trustworthiness?


Aidenberger, Amelie; Rauhut, Heiko; Rössel, Jörg (2020). Is participation in high-status culture a signal of trustworthiness? PLoS ONE, 15(5):e0232674.

Abstract

Trust is essential for social interactions, cooperation and social order. Research has shown that social status and common group memberships are important determinants of receiving and reciprocating trust. However, social status and group membership can coincide or diverge–with potentially different effects. Our study contributes to the existing literature on the role of status and group membership by testing two separate trust-generating mechanisms against each other. We examine if individuals tend to place trust in high-status groups (irrespective of their own group membership) or, rather, if they tend to trust others with whom they share a common group membership. We assume that status group membership is signalled by cultural (musical) taste. This operationalization follows the theoretical reasoning of Bourdieu who argues that it is, above all, musical taste that classifies persons of different status. By demonstrating their “legitimate” cultural taste, upper-class members distinguish themselves from the middle and lower classes and signal their social status, thereby creating awe, respect and an air of trustworthiness. We report evidence from online experiments with incentivized trust games, which enable us to separate the two trust-generating mechanisms. We find no evidence that persons with “legitimate” tastes are generally trusted more. Instead, our results clearly demonstrate ingroup favouritism towards persons with a similar taste. Participants place more trust in members of their own group and expect them to be more trustworthy. In other words: members of taste-based groups trust each other more than members of different-taste-based groups. Interestingly, this group-based trust is not always justified inasmuch as received trust is not necessarily reciprocated more strongly by own group members. This suggests that ingroup favouritism is, at least in part, driven by false beliefs.

Abstract

Trust is essential for social interactions, cooperation and social order. Research has shown that social status and common group memberships are important determinants of receiving and reciprocating trust. However, social status and group membership can coincide or diverge–with potentially different effects. Our study contributes to the existing literature on the role of status and group membership by testing two separate trust-generating mechanisms against each other. We examine if individuals tend to place trust in high-status groups (irrespective of their own group membership) or, rather, if they tend to trust others with whom they share a common group membership. We assume that status group membership is signalled by cultural (musical) taste. This operationalization follows the theoretical reasoning of Bourdieu who argues that it is, above all, musical taste that classifies persons of different status. By demonstrating their “legitimate” cultural taste, upper-class members distinguish themselves from the middle and lower classes and signal their social status, thereby creating awe, respect and an air of trustworthiness. We report evidence from online experiments with incentivized trust games, which enable us to separate the two trust-generating mechanisms. We find no evidence that persons with “legitimate” tastes are generally trusted more. Instead, our results clearly demonstrate ingroup favouritism towards persons with a similar taste. Participants place more trust in members of their own group and expect them to be more trustworthy. In other words: members of taste-based groups trust each other more than members of different-taste-based groups. Interestingly, this group-based trust is not always justified inasmuch as received trust is not necessarily reciprocated more strongly by own group members. This suggests that ingroup favouritism is, at least in part, driven by false beliefs.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Sociology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:5 May 2020
Deposited On:02 Jul 2020 15:09
Last Modified:14 Jul 2020 09:28
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Number of Pages:23
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0232674

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