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New Fraternity Scholarship noted

Costs do not Explain Trust among Secular Groups

image of Journal of Cognition and Culture
 Many human groups achieve high levels of trust and cooperation, but these achievements are vulnerable to exploitation. Several theorists have suggested that when groups impose costs on their members, these costs can function to limit freeriding, and hence promote trust and cooperation. While a substantial body of experimental research has demonstrated a positive relationship between costs and cooperation in religious groups, to date, this relationship has not held for secular groups. Here we extend this line of research by comparing trust and cooperation among 11 secular groups, including four U.S. Greek fraternities that impose high costs on their members. We find that although fraternities impose greater costs on their members than social clubs, fraternities and social clubs do not significantly differ in their levels of intra-group trust. Moreover, variation in costs does not explain variation in trust among fraternities. We suggest that the lack of an evident relationship between costs and trust in our results is because secular groups, unlike religious groups, lack repeated rituals that are coupled with supernatural ideologies. We conclude by suggesting possible avenues for future research.

Affiliations: 1: University of Otagocorresponding author john.shaver@otago.ac.nz ; 2: Connecticut Children’s Medical CenterTrinity College sdivietro@connecticutchildrens.org ; 3: Harvard UniversityMasaryk University martinlang@fas.harvard.edu ; 4: University of Connecticut richard.sosis@uconn.edu

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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