, Volume 140, Issue 1-2, pp 145-160

Different goods, different effects: exploring the effects of generalized social trust in large-N collective action

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Abstract

Does generalized social trust help solve large-N collective action problems? This paper argues so, offering a novel explanation for the relationship: People tend to cooperate if they expect others to be cooperating, which implies that people holding generalized social trust more readily cooperate in large-N dilemmas because they expect that most people will cooperate. The paper tests the explanation in a rigorous design. The analyses show a positive, robust effect of generalized social trust on public good provision, but no effect is found in a joint product situation. This supports the hypothesis, indicating that trust specifically enhances cooperation in collective action dilemmas.