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PHILOSOPHY OF MIND eJOURNAL

"Witchcraft Beliefs and the Erosion of Trust: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa and Beyond" Free Download

BORIS GERSHMAN, American University - Department of Economics
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This paper examines the relationship between witchcraft beliefs, a deep-rooted cultural phenomenon, and trust, an integral element of social capital. We argue that witchcraft beliefs erode trust and cooperation and exploit novel survey data from nineteen countries of Sub-Saharan Africa to test this hypothesis. We establish a robust negative association between regional prevalence of witchcraft beliefs and various measures of trust which holds after accounting for country fixed effects as well as potential confounding factors and conventional determinants of trust at the individual, regional, and ethnic-group levels. Additional evidence spanning societies and countries beyond Africa lends further support for the potentially significant role of witchcraft beliefs in generating persistent norms of mistrust. Specifically, in preindustrial communities where witchcraft beliefs are important the norms of mistrust and self-reliance are inculcated since childhood. Furthermore, second-generation immigrants in Europe whose parents were born in countries with widespread witchcraft beliefs are generally less trusting.

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The Philosophy Research Network is for papers with the content and methodology of professional philosophy. Papers posted under Philosophy of Mind will have a primary focus on one or more of the following subtopics: Metaphysics of Mind; Mental Content; Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Psychology. See the descriptions under each subcategory for information about what is included in each.

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Advisory Board

Philosophy of Mind eJournal

JULIA ELIZABETH ANNAS
Regents Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona

DAVID CHALMERS
Professor of Philosophy, ARC Federation Fellow, Director - Center for Consciousness, Australian National University

MAUDEMARIE CLARK
Carleton Professor of Philosophy, Colgate University

CHRISTINE M. KORSGAARD
Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University

ALAN SIMMONS
Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law, University of Virginia

ELLIOTT R. SOBER
Hans Reichenbach Professor of Philosophy and William F. Vilas Research Professor, University of Wisconsin

ERNEST SOSA
Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University

BRIAN WEATHERSON
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Cornell University