Dr. Daniel Hruschka (Arizona State University) will undertake research to advance understanding of the cultural roots of cooperation and favoritism. In the last decade, new research has revealed how perceived social closeness fundamentally transforms people's willingness to help certain people and to neglect others. Based largely in industrialized countries, current findings raise key questions about how cultural context changes the relevance of social closeness for decision-making.
Using interview, observational and survey methods to ground concepts of social closeness in local context and innovative experimental tools to measure social behavior, the study will ask three main questions: (1) How do people discriminate between socially close and non-close others in different religious and socioeconomic contexts? (2) How do religious and economic factors change the effect of social closeness on the willingness to help and to share? (3) What are the proximate psychological mechanisms by which social closeness influences helping and sharing? To answer these questions, the project will compare four rural communities in Dinajpur, Bangladesh that differ in terms of religious background and economic uncertainty.
This project will contribute to a number of policy areas that depend on how people resolve dilemmas between helping friends and family and being fair to a broader public, including issues of favoritism and corruption, civil governance, and charitable giving. The multidisciplinary project will train undergraduate and graduate students in study design, sampling, observational techniques, interview construction, data collection, behavioral experiments, and qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Middle school curricula will be disseminated through innovative programs at the Santa Fe Institute designed to engage youth in laboratory activities and social scientific approaches to studying pressing social issues. The project will also build research and training capacity at LAMB Project for Integrated Health and Development in Dinajpur, Bangladesh.