The elasticity of trust in the Middle East

From a new experimental paper, by Iris Bohnet, Benedikt Hermann, Mohamad Al-Ississ, Andrea Robbett (she is speaking at GMU today), Khalid Al-Yahi, and Richard Zeckauser, here is one bit from the conclusion:

Mechanisms aimed at mitigating the cost of betrayal, such as damages or insurance provision, seem to work better in the United States, and arrangements focusing on preventing the occurrence of betrayal, such as a punishment threat, have greater impact in the Arab Middle East. In our experiments, trust was promoted by decreasing the cost of betrayal in the United States but not in Jordan. Punishment functioned differently. Giving the first mover the option to take revenge at a price should she be betrayed enhanced trust in Saudi Arabia but not in the United States.


In the Middle East, apparently, vengeance is a dish enjoyed greatly.

This was a footnote (!) "We follow our gender convention for labeling first movers here even though there were no female participants in Saudi Arabia."

So much space taken up cringing and manoeuvring about gender in otherwise interesting papers with novel methods on interesting subjects. The English Language really must do something to resolve the distracting gender impediment. Could it follow German Kant and simply reduce every individual to the fundamental autonomy of reason?

So instead of she/he just say 'reason'. Simple euphemism. Better and less confusing than communitarian 'they' or 'we'.

Anyway, on skim reading it's clear that the conclusions find universal rather than cultural undergirding to trustworthiness, and by implication to development writ large. Thus: "While the elasticity of trust seems to be strongly related to the situational context ['culture'], the elasticity of trustworthiness is much more similar across the two regions studied and influenced by basic human motivations, such as fairness and reciprocity." Translated -- reason may reasonably be thought to generate reasonableness everywhere.

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