Identity Signaling in a Trust Game: Group Membership, Stereotypes, and Charitable Giving

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:09
Location: Hörsaal 27 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Janine WEETING, University of Groningen/ ICS, Netherlands
Rafael WITTEK, University of Groningen/ICS, Netherlands
Russell SPEARS, University of Groningen, Netherlands
Andreas FLACHE, University of Groningen / ICS, Netherlands
Trust is an important prerequisite for cooperation. In order to trust a stranger, people rely on cues that are supposed to inform them about a person’s trustworthiness. Building on signaling theory, charitable giving was identified to be a reliable signal of trustworthiness. However, does the signal stay reliable and influential regardless of who displays it, and over time? A signaler’s identity (e.g. being a Dutch national, a woman, an academic, etc.) may serve as a signal itself via group reputation and stereotypes. Furthermore, a signal might become less informative over time, since people learn if a person can in fact be trusted. In two experiments, we investigated in a five-round trust game whether charitable giving displayed by a male or female person (experiment 1; N = 246) and psychology or economics student (experiment 2; N = 131) effectively signals trustworthiness. In experiment 1 charitable giving let to more perceived trustworthiness, independent of the signaler’s gender in all rounds of the trust game. We traced this back to an ambivalent gender stereotype that made gender identity a less informative signal. In experiment 2, we manipulated the stereotype about economics students. For the first round of the trust game we replicated the finding of experiment 1 that charitable giving lead to more perceived trustworthiness independent of a signaler’s identity. For the remaining rounds of the trust game, however, we found an interaction effect of the participant’s stereotype, a signaler’s identity and charitable giving. Participants with a negative stereotype about economics students trusted a psychology student that displayed charitable giving more than an economics student that displayed charitable giving.  This trust difference was most striking in the last round of the trust game, in which participants showed the “endgame effect” towards economics students, but not towards psychology students that displayed charitable giving.