International Society for Quantitative History

QH Webinar Series

Traditional Supernatural Beliefs and Prosocial Behavior

10:00 | Thursday, October 21, 2021

Zoom Webinar

English

Sara Lowes

Sara Lowes

Assistant Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego

Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In sub-Saharan Africa, traditional supernatural beliefs, including belief in witchcraft, black magic, or fetishism, are widespread. Some have hypothesized that these beliefs help to sustain cooperative behavior in a setting where the state is often absent. Others have documented that, at least at a macro-level, such beliefs are negatively associated with prosocial behavior.

Sara Lowes of UC San Diego and her co-authors contribute to a better understanding of the causal effects of these traditional supernatural beliefs by using lab-in-the-field experiments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Participants complete a range of experimental tasks where one player chooses whether to act in a prosocial manner towards another player. Participants are randomly assigned to another player that has either a strong or weak belief in witchcraft, and this information is known by the players. They find that participants act less prosocially towards randomly-assigned partners who believe more strongly in witchcraft. They also find that antisocial behavior is more socially acceptable and prosocial behavior less socially acceptable when playing with a partner who believes more strongly in witchcraft.

In this Quantitative History Webinar, Sara Lowes shares their findings and explain why the negative relationship between witchcraft and prosocial outcomes observed in the data may, in fact, be due to the causal effect of the presence of traditional supernatural beliefs on people’s behavior.

Sara's co-authors: Etienne Le Rossignol (Centre d’Économie de la Sorbonne and LSE) and Nathan Nunn (Harvard)

Live on Zoom on October 21, 2021
10:00 Hong Kong/Beijing/Singapore
11:00 Tokyo | 13:00 Sydney
Previous Day 19:00 Los Angeles | 22:00 New York

This webinar was not recorded as it contained interim/preliminary findings. Thank you to everyone who joined us at this "closed-door" event. It was great to have you all on Zoom!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Zoom Webinar

Sara Lowes

English

The Quantitative History Webinar Series aims to provide researchers, teachers, and students with an online intellectual platform to keep up to date with the latest research in the field, promoting the dissemination of research findings and interdisciplinary use of quantitative methods in historical research. The Series, now in its third year, is co-organized by the International Society for Quantitative History, HKU Business School, and Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 量化歷史網上講座系列由香港大學陳志武和馬馳騁教授聯合發起,旨在介紹前沿量化歷史研究成果、促進同仁交流,推廣量化方法在歷史研究中的應用。本系列講座由國際量化歷史學會、香港大學經管學院和香港人文社會研究所全力支持和承辦。

Conveners: Professor Zhiwu Chen & Dr. Chicheng Ma (HKU Business School)

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