CEP/STICERD Applications Seminars
Traditional Supernatural Beliefs and Prosocial Behavior
Sara Lowes (UC San Diego), joint with Nathan Nunn and Etienne Le Rossignol
Monday 09 May 2022 16:00 - 17:30
This event is both online and in personSAL 3.05, 3rd Floor Conference Room, Sir Arthur Lewis Building, LSE, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PH
About this event
In sub-Saharan Africa, traditional supernatural beliefs, including belief in witchcraft, black magic, or fetishism, are widespread. Some have hypothesized that these beliefs help to sustain cooperative behavior in a setting where the state is often absent. Others have documented that, at least at a macro-level, such beliefs are negatively associated with prosocial behavior. We contribute to a better understanding of the causal effects of these traditional supernatural beliefs by using lab-in-the-field experiments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Participants complete a range of experimental tasks where one player chooses whether to act in a prosocial manner towards another player. Participants are randomly assigned to another player that has either a strong or weak belief in witchcraft, and this information is known by the players. We find that participants act less prosocially towards randomly-assigned partners who believe more strongly in witchcraft. We also find that antisocial behavior is more socially acceptable and prosocial behavior less socially acceptable when playing with a partner who believes more strongly in witchcraft. Our findings suggest that the negative relationship between witchcraft and prosocial outcomes observed in the data may, in fact, be due to the causal effect of the presence of traditional supernatural beliefs on people’s behavior.
Participants are are expected to adhere to the CEP Events Code of Conduct.
This event will take place in SAL 3.05, 3rd Floor Conference Room, Sir Arthur Lewis Building, LSE, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PH.The building is labelled SAL on the map. Enter the building via Lincoln's Inn Fields.
This series is part of the CEP's Labour Markets programme.