Publication details

The Boundaries of Trust : Cross-Religious and Cross-Ethnic Field Experiments in Mauritius



Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Evolutionary Psychology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords cooperation; ancestry; Mauritius; religion; trust
Description Several prominent evolutionary theories contend that religion was critical to the emergence of large-scale societies and encourages cooperation in contemporary complex groups. These theories argue that religious systems provide a reliable mechanism for finding trustworthy anonymous individuals under conditions of risk. In support, studies find that people displaying cues of religious identity are more likely to be trusted by anonymous coreligionists. However, recent research has found that displays of religious commitment can increase trust across religious divides. These findings are puzzling from the perspective that religion emerges to regulate coalitions. To date, these issues have not been investigated outside of American undergraduate samples nor have studies considered how religious identities interact with other essential group-membership signals, such as ancestry, to affect intergroup trust. Here, we address these issues and compare religious identity, ancestry, and trust among and between Christians and Hindus living in Mauritius. Ninety-seven participants rated the trustworthiness of faces, and in a modified trust game distributed money among these faces, which varied according to religious and ethnic identity. In contrast to previous research, we find that markers of religious identity increase monetary investments only among in-group members and not across religious divides. Moreover, out-group religious markers on faces of in-group ancestry decrease reported trustworthiness. These findings run counter to recent studies collected in the United States and suggest that local socioecologies influence the rela- tionships between religion and trust. We conclude with suggestions for future research and a discussion of the challenges of conducting field experiments with remote populations.
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