Did the Killing of Osama bin Laden Make Americans Trust Each Other?

An interesting study says “yes.”  Political scientists Gregory Love and Ryan Carlin were in the midst of conducting an experiment when bin Laden was killed.  The experiment is designed to gauge trust:

Our online trust game was played by randomly assigned anonymous players who did not meet before playing. Player 1s were told that we would conduct 6 lotteries of $100. They were then told that we had allotted them 10 lottery tickets, and that they have the option to share some, none, or all of it with Player 2, who was also given 10 tickets at the outset.  Then Player 1s were told that any sum shared will be tripled before giving it to Player 2, and that Player 2 will be given the same options–to return some, none, or all of it to Player 1.
Trust is measured as the amount Player 1 sends to Player 2.  Since Player 2 has no incentive to return any of the money, Player 1 should pocket the 10 tickets and to pass none of them to Player 2. However, on average, both players give significantly above the equilibrium amounts, a finding that holds in an array of diverse contexts. In other words, trusting behavior on the part of Player 1 is not completely misplaced in Player 2 because Player 2 often reciprocates, thereby honoring the trust placed in them by behaving in a trustworthy manner.

Love and Carlin were examining the level of trust manifested by pairs of people who shared the same party affiliation (friendly partisans) and pairs who did not (rival partisans).  Before bin Laden’s death, people showed almost twice as much trust in friendly partisans as rival partisans.  That is, they shared roughly twice as many tickets with friendly partisans as with their rivals.

But after bin Laden’s death, there was no evidence of partisan bias.  Participants who took part in the experiment at that point awarded far more tickets to rival partisans than did those who participated before bin Laden’s death.  In fact, those who participated after his death awarded an equal number of tickets with friendly partisans and rivals alike.  Love and Carlin note that this finding dovetails with the increase in trust that occurred after 9/11.

Here is a brief write-up of the experiment.  This, combined with the results I discussed previously, suggests that the killing of bin Laden may have made Americans more suspicious of Muslims but less suspicious of each other.

 

7 Responses to Did the Killing of Osama bin Laden Make Americans Trust Each Other?

  1. erik August 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Interesting, and consistent with intergroup threat and social identity theories, perceived threat from outside group increases in-group cohesion, as exhibited in greater trust, while increasing out-group prejudice toward Muslim Americans…

  2. Alison Cummins August 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    “[T]he killing of bin Laden may have made Americans more suspicious of Muslims but less suspicious of each other.”

    Do you really mean that Muslims and Americans represent non-overlapping groups?

    If all research participants were non-Muslim American citizens, then this could be rephrased as, “The killing of bin Laden may have made non-Muslim Americans more suspicious of Muslims but less suspicious of each other.” If the research participants were more mixed, then that conclusion is not warranted either.

  3. Justin August 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    So this suggests that we can achieve world peace if we could just find an alien civilization to attack. Puts a useful spin on all of NASA’s work…

  4. DEATH OF OSAMA _ THE GREATEST HOAX OF ALL TIME September 2, 2011 at 11:18 pm #

    REALLY??? HES A KNOW LIAR HIS ENTIRE LIFE IS FRAUDULENT..YET YOU BELIEVED HIM, WHEN HE SAID, HE KILLED A TERRORIST THAT HAS ***BEEN DEAD…SINCE 2001??? NO BODY, NO EVIDENCE??? THE ONLY THING OSAMA HAD WHEN THEY DUMPED HIM..WAS FREEZER BURN. HIS REMAINING RELATIVES & LOOKALIKES THAT WERE USED IN FAKED VIDEOS WERE MURDERED. YOU PEOPLE ARE MORONS!!!! A PUBLICITY STUNT FOR AN ELECTION BUMP. ONLY A TRUE MORON WOULD BELIEVE IT!!!! HOW COINCIDENTAL ALL WITNESS ARE NOW DEAD TOO.

  5. DEATH OF OSAMA _ THE GREATEST HOAX OF ALL TIME September 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    NO WONDER COMMUNISTS ARE TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR COUNTRY!!!! YOU ARE ALL IDIOTS!!!! UK HAS ITS PROBLEMS..BUT, WE KNOW FACTS FROM BAD FICTION.

  6. FAKE RACE - CLASS WAR COMING September 2, 2011 at 11:35 pm #

    DIVIDE AND CONQUER……. THE COMING RACE WAR AND CLASS WAR WILL FINISH YOUR COUNTRY!!!
    YOU FELL FOR IT. ENJOY SLAVERY. ENJOY YOUR CRAZY DICTATOR!!! DID YOUR TSA FIND A TERRORIST IN YOUR PANTS YET???? YOU FOOLS!!!! ITS NOT SAFETY, ITS TRAINING TO SUBMIT TO CONTROL!!! WHERE IS YOUR FREEDOM AMERICA??? YOU GAVE IT AWAY, FOR NOTHING!!!!!

  7. FAKE RACE - CLASS WAR COMING September 2, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

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