Trust and environmental valuation: The impact of culture as system




Lee, Kelvin

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Economists use various contingent valuation schemes to assess how the environment should be factored in development issues. A standard critique of economics is that it takes preferences as given and does not question where attitudes come from. The thesis examines how contextual factors, institutions, rules, and culture affect people's valuation of environmental goods and services. Drawing on previous literature this thesis examines a set of contextual factors that help determine different attitudes toward environmental evaluation across different countries using specific questions from the World Values Survey. Two of the central figures in this area are Elinor Ostrom and Toshio Yamagishi. Through public goods experiments Ostrom demonstrates the importance of trust for reciprocity for collective action but equally important are the rules that govern the regulation of interpersonal exchanges. There is a large body of work from cross-cultural psychologists who emphasize that there is an individualism-collectivism dimension of culture and that helps explains how much trust there exists in different countries. Building on Ostrom's work, Yamagishi critiques this work. He builds on Ostrom's account arguing that innate motivations driven by culture are not important; rather, it is the mutual formal and informal monitoring and sanctioning that impacts upon individuals' reputations for trustworthiness. The thesis examines Yamagishi's claims in comparison to those of the cross-cultural psychologists' thesis with regard to individuals' environmental valuation measured in terms of their environmental attitudes. Using specific questions that have been posed in the World Values Survey the effects of two groups of independent variables in particular are examined: institutional variables represented by a state's rule of law as proxy for monitoring and sanctioning other actors; and cultural variables operationalized in terms of an individual's cultural orientation and a state's cultural frame. Multilevel ordered logistic regression is utilized to analyze cross-country data by comparing results from the wave 5 dataset against those from the longitudinal dataset of the World Values Survey. The thesis demonstrates that a state's rule of law has a positive impact on one's environmental attitudes when interacted with interpersonal trust and trust in institutions. However, culture's impact on individuals' environmental attitudes seems to contradict expectations of the cross-cultural psychologists; rather, Yamagishi's arguments provide a better explanation. 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.






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