Which Risk? Which Trust? Cognitive Determinants of Participation in Collective Action.

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Katarzyna ABRAMCZUK, Insitute of Sociology, University of Warsaw, Poland
Anna BACZKO-DOMBI, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology, Institute of Sociology, Poland
Agata KOMENDANT-BRODOWSKA, Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw, Poland
According to the theory of rational choice a decision to engage in a collective action can be viewed as a special case of decision under risk (e.g. Coleman 1994). This implies a cognitive process in which two individual traits play an important role. Trust determines how the decision maker perceives probabilities of various outcomes of the collective action at hand. Risk attitude determines how these probabilities influence the final decision to cooperate (or not). Hence the choice should be related to both risk attitudes and propensity to trust.

We are presenting results of an exploratory study aiming at establishing whether these postulated relationships exist. The crux of the study is the fact that both risk attitude and propensity to trust can be measured in many different ways. For example risk attitudes in economic research are measured via series of choices between lotteries, while psychologists and sociologists prefer various questionnaire items. Trust on the other hand can be measured using the traditional general trust items or more specific questions. Not all these measures are equally adequate in the context of collective action. For instance inquiring about subjects’ risky behaviors such as substance abuse, unprotected sex or parachute jumping is not necessarily relevant here. We are therefore raising a question of how to assess trust and risk attitude to predict choices made in public goods dilemma.

Our research is based on a study in which participants were taking part in a PGG and filled in a questionnaire. We find that making decisions is different from thinking about one’s attitudes when it comes to risk and that trust can be estimated surprisingly well using very simple tools. Furthermore, both trust and risk attitude are important determinants of contributions in the experimental game.