An Experimental Study of Status Effects on Trust and Cooperation

Abstract

Laboratory experiments are used relatively rarely in sociology, as it is often argued that they are not suitable for studying complex social phenomena and that their results cannot be generalized to general populations. This case describes a step-by-step process of designing and conducting two laboratory experiments. Both are devised to test hypotheses regarding the role of status in shaping perceptions of trustworthiness and cooperation between total strangers. After setting the context for our research, we explain why we chose an experimental method to study such complex phenomena as status, trust, and cooperation. We then describe the process of designing the first experiment, what we have learned based on its results, and how it affected the design of the second experiment. We conclude with general remarks regarding the usefulness of experiments in sociology.

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