Social Status, Cultural Taste & Trust

Article published: 27.07.2020

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. This study contributes to the existing literature on the role of status and group membership by testing two separate trust-generating mechanisms against each other. Do individuals tend to place trust in high-status groups (irrespective of their own group membership) or, rather, do they tend to trust others with whom they share a common group membership? Following Bourdieu, musical taste 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. Empirically, this study relies in online experiments with incentivized trust games enabling to separate the two ...

... trust-generating mechanisms. No evidence is found that persons with “legitimate” tastes are generally trusted more. Instead, ingroup favouritism towards persons with a similar taste is demonstrated. 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.

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

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