Trust Discrimination in Shame-Based Cultures

Political competition shapes trust, as trust is the foundation of cooperation. In “Political Competition, Partisanship, and Interpersonal Trust in Electoral Democracies”, Ryan E. Carlin and Gregory J. Love analyze ways in which the disparity of ideologies between different groups can cause trust discrimination, and how this can ultimately create distrust across groups. Carlin et al. focus this peer review journal on how this applies to democratic governments. Nonetheless, trust discrimination is prevalent in other forms of power structures that exist in our society. Shame-based cultures (prominent in collectivist Asian cultures) often display qualities that indicate the presence of trust discrimination, as it superficially strengthens intragroup connections by reinforcing feelings of shame in those who do not conform to the standards or beliefs of what is appropriate. However, this consequently creates distrust, discrimination and conflict between groups.

Social differentiation creates fault lines because competition for power can aggravate social comparison. To illustrate this, Carlin et al. introduce the intergroup bias theory, explaining how stereotypes can lead to emotional prejudice, which then leads to discrimination among different groups. Although this is evident in many social structures, this is especially prevalent in shame-based cultures due to the exacerbation of social comparison. Deeply rooted within their traditions and ideologies is the expectation to conform to the norms of society. This may be to maintain social order in society and create a superficial sense of cooperation. In regards to the intergroup bias theory, this may be an example of emotional prejudice, which ultimately leads to separation and discrimination between groups.  This is because their society reinforces feelings of shame in those who are different from the norm or those who do not fall under the standards of what is considered to be acceptable. The fear of being different from the majority consequently worsens the stigma towards minorities, and this can cause increased disconnection and conflict between groups. Thus, similar to what Carlin et al.’s study on political systems, the disparity of ideologies between groups in shame-based cultures can lead to emotional prejudice and trust discrimination, and this causes bonding within groups rather than across groups.

Social hierarchies that are prominent in shame-based cultures can also increase competition and create distrust between groups. Carlin et al. explain that intergroup perceptions of superiority cause social comparisons, which can induce a zero-sum game. Due to the concern of being stigmatized for being abnormal, individuals in shame-based cultures may be afraid of falling behind in competition, thus continually strive to adopt a favorable image. They may also begin to discriminate against those who do not share the same beliefs as the norm. This relates to Hutcheon’s concept of the “critique scholarship”, wherein individuals display contempt for those those who work under a different theoretical framework than their own. Similarly, individuals may attempt to assert their superiority by undermining the ideologies of other groups, viewing them as inferior. Social differentiation combined with the need to feel superior causes intergroup perceptions of superiority, and this creates trust discrimination between groups. This may superficially strengthen intragroup connections by causing favoritism to in-group members. Nonetheless, this simultaneously causes distrust, conflict and separation between groups.

@andrea posed the question of whether there is a way to convince individuals to cooperate towards a common goal rather than a common enemy. In shame-based cultures in Asia, where in-group favoritism is evident, many individuals tend to adhere to the beliefs of the norm, trusting those with similar beliefs while turning a blind eye to those who are different. This neglect of differences in beliefs may be what is increasing the conflict and segregation between groups, as more individuals begin conforming to the norm as a means to prevent being regarded as inferior. Andrea’s comment on how trust discrimination can cause individuals to work towards a common enemy may apply in this case. The increasing stigma towards inferior groups can cause society to continue pressuring individuals to conform. This mindset may cause people to band together and stigmatize those from minorities to feel a sense of superiority, essentially creating a common enemy to condemn.

Perhaps a way to convince individuals to cooperate towards a common goal is by emphasizing the importance of perspective. Convincing individuals to attempt looking at the world through the eyes of others can possibly encourage them to accept individual differences in people. The ability to be accepting of others with beliefs different than our own may decrease the stigma towards minorities, thus potentially reduce the amount of trust discrimination that is causing individuals to work towards a common enemy. Therefore, the building of trust between individuals possessing different ideologies can perhaps alleviate conflict between groups, and encourage individuals to strive to cooperate towards a common goal.


@andrea’s post:

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