Trust and Environmental Valuation: The Impact of Culture as System

Stream: Panel 39 - Comparative Politics: Political Trust and Experiments in Political Science
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


I examine how culture viewed as a set of rules impact on individuals’ trust in one another and in the government in the context of valuing the environment. Ostrom (1998) demonstrates the importance of an individual’s reputation, one’s trust in other individuals and reciprocity in actions among individuals in public goods experiments. Yamagishi (2003) builds on Ostrom’s argument, finding that it is not an individual’s cultural orientation but systems of formal and informal mutual monitoring and sanctioning that impact on individuals’ reputations of trustworthiness. However, this contradicts many findings that explain variation in environmental attitudes based on an individual’s cultural orientation. I test Yamagishi’s argument against the cultural orientation thesis in its impact on environmental valuation measured in terms of environmental attitudes. The magnitude of their impacts and statistical significance will be compared between two groups of independent variables: institutional variables represented by a state’s rule of law as proxy for monitoring and sanctioning other actors, against cultural variables measured by an individual’s cultural orientation and a state’s cultural frame. Multilevel analysis is utilized to analyse cross-country data from wave 5 of the World Values Survey. Results show that a state’s rule of law demonstrates statistically significant impact on environmental attitudes only when interacted with one’s interpersonal trust. However, cultural orientation consistently exhibits statistically insignificant impact while the impact of a state’s cultural frame is mixed. This study further supports Ostrom’s and Yamagishi’s arguments for the importance of legal institutions and interpersonal trust in influencing one’s valuation of the environment.


Kelvin Lee (Presenter), Australian National University
Kelvin Lee is a PhD candidate at the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), ANU. His dissertation examines the effects of culture and institutions on individuals’ valuation of the environment. Kelvin graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree (Hons) in Political Science in 2008 and a Master in Public Policy degree in 2012 from the National University of Singapore (NUS). Before he began his PhD at SPIR in 2015, Kelvin worked as a teaching and research assistant at the NUS, the Singapore Government, and as a researcher at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).