Do you think that rural Australians are more likely to trust one another? I did. But a new experiment from the CSIRO suggests otherwise.
An experimental approach to comparing trust in pastoral and non-pastoral Australia
McAllister RRJ, Reeson AF
It is generally held that rural Australians are more cooperative in character than their urban counterparts. To explore one aspect of this notion, we conducted an experiment that compared trust and trustworthiness among a sample of Australian senior high school students, which included students with both pastoral and non-pastoral backgrounds. While student behaviour is unlikely to mimic adult behaviour, any significant differences between pastoral and non-pastoral students would suggest differences do exist between the social norms that guide pastoral and non-pastoral communities. Our results concurred with other studies in showing that social distance is an important determinant of the level of cooperation. We repeated our experiment at three different schools containing students from both pastoral and non-pastoral backgrounds, allowing us to draw comparisons. In total 78 students participated. Our experiments were based on similar experiments that have been applied across a range of contexts internationally (trust game/investment game). We did not find evidence of differences between students with pastoral and non-pastoral backgrounds, either in the level of trust in others or in trustworthiness, though our methods probably have a bias towards this conclusion.
I’m still not quite sure why the CSIRO are doing experimental economics, but I find this stuff fascinating. Apparently CSIRO and ANU even have a Canberra-based ‘lab’ for doing these experiments, though I’m not sure who uses it.
(By the way, if the title of this post befuddles you, click here.)