Does community social embeddedness promote generalized trust? An experimental test of the spillover effect


Despite the theoretical relevance attributed to the spillover effect, little empirical research has focused on testing its causal validity. Addressing this gap in the literature, I propose a novel experimental design to test if the overall density of social links in a community promotes trustworthy and trusting behaviors with absolute strangers. Controlling for social integration (i.e. the individual number of social connections), I found that density fosters higher levels of trust. In particular, results show that people in denser communities are more likely to trust their unknown fellow citizens, encouraging isolated subjects to engage with strangers. However, evidence did not support the idea that community social embeddedness causes an increase of trustworthiness, indicating that the spillover effect works only with respect to trust.

In Social Science Research
Sergio Lo Iacono
Sergio Lo Iacono
Assistant Professor