Discussion paper

DP9216 Trust, Values and False Consensus

Trust beliefs are heterogeneous across individuals and, at the same time, persistent across generations. We investigate one mechanism
yielding these dual patterns: false consensus. In the context of a trust game experiment, we show that individuals extrapolate from their own type when forming trust beliefs about the same pool of potential partners - i.e., more (less) trustworthy individuals form more optimistic
(pessimistic) trust beliefs - and that this tendency continues to color trust beliefs after several rounds of game-play. Moreover, we show that one's own type/trustworthiness can be traced back to the values parents transmit to their children during their upbringing. In a second closely-related experiment, we show the economic impact of mis-calibrated trust beliefs stemming from false consensus. Miscalibrated beliefs lower participants' experimental trust game earnings by about 20 percent on average.


Guiso, L, P Giuliano and J Butler (2012), ‘DP9216 Trust, Values and False Consensus‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 9216. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp9216