System Trust and Cooperation: The Case of Recycling Behavior

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 69
Oral Presentation
Stephan Alexander ROMPF , University of Cologne, 50923 Cologne, Germany
In this paper, I develop and test the hypothesis that system trust – trust in the reliability, effectiveness, and legitimacy of social institutions – promotes cooperation in social dilemmas and the provision of public goods, focusing here on the example of recycling. I discuss three models that can explain recycling behavior (rational choice, low-cost hypothesis, dual-process theory) and show how they link incentives and attitudes. All three models claim that incentives are an important factor mediating the attitude-behavior link, but they develop contradicting hypotheses about the direction of this effect. I use survey data collected by Sønderskov and Daugbjerg (2011) to advance an empirical test. I find a positive and significant interaction between the attitude of system trust and recycling costs, as well as a negative and significant interaction between system trust and recycling benefits. The data rule out the rational choice and low-cost hypothesis explanation of recycling behavior. Instead, they indicate that attitudes moderate the impact of the incentive structure, increasing cooperation in collective action dilemmas irrespective of the costs associated with compliance.