The theory of third order inference is a theory of how cultural beliefs influence individuals' decisions under conditions of interdependence and uncertainty. In this study, I build on prior work extending the theory to the role of third order information on social trust in public goods dilemmas. Namely, I argue that when second order information on the beliefs of those relevant to the group task are present, this information should influence decision-making over first and third order.
I test this argument in an experimental public goods game. After measuring first order social trust, participants are randomly sorted into one of four conditions – two that pair third and second order information on social trust as parallel and two that pair them as in conflict.
The results suggest that in the presence of second order information on social trust, third order information doesn't have an effect on cooperation.
The study extends the theory of third order inference to understanding the role of social trust at the first, second, and third levels in public goods dilemmas. It puts second order information in competition with third order in predicting cooperation. It suggests that resolving the uncertainty over the second order beliefs of a collective is key to preventing inefficient equilibriums when second and third order beliefs conflict.
Doyle, J. (2023), "The Effect of Cultural Trust in the Presence of Second Order Trust on Cooperation in a Behavioral Experiment", Kalkhoff, W., Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 40), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 49-69. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0882-614520230000040003
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