Altruism, reciprocity, and social trust are important determinants of prosperity and a well-functioning society. The findings confirm the extent to which crises suffered together strengthen cohesionDr Cevat Giray Aksoy
04 June 2021
Pandemic 'triggered increase in altruism and reciprocity' across Europe
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an increase in altruistic behaviour and reciprocity among Europeans, a new study has found.
Citizens demonstrated greater levels of altruism towards their compatriots, citizens of other EU countries, and non-EU citizens when presented with information about the effects of the pandemic.
Information on the importance of shared European values (for example peace, democracy, protection of human rights and equality) was also found to increase altruism and reciprocity among citizens, but only toward their compatriots and fellow Europeans.
The findings were revealed as part of a large-scale survey experiment conducted by Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy, of King’s College London and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and co-author Antonio Cabrales, Mathias Dolls, Ruben Durante, and Lisa Windsteiger.
In a large-scale survey experiment conducted in nine European countries with 25,000 respondents, the researchers studied how providing information about the COVID-19 crisis, common economic interests, and a shared identity shaped pro-social behavior.
“Interestingly, information on common economic interests - for example economic integration via trade - had no tangible impact on people’s behavior,” said Dr Aksoy.
The survey was conducted in August 2020 in European countries where the impact of the pandemic varied widely: France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Sweden.
Participants in the experiment were divided into different groups. Members of the first group were given information about the pandemic, in particular the total number of deaths per million people in their own country as well as across the EU.
The second group received information on the importance of the EU single market for their own country. Information for the third group focused on sharing the common values of peace, democracy, protection of human rights, and equality in Europe.
Researchers examined the effect of these different types of information on altruism, reciprocity, and trust in others. Trust was not affected by any of the three information types.
“Altruism, reciprocity, and social trust are important determinants of prosperity and a well-functioning society. The findings confirm the extent to which crises suffered together strengthen cohesion,” Dr Aksoy said.
The findings have been published in a working paper, Calamities, Common Interests, Shared Identity: What Shapes Altruism and Reciprocity? You can read the paper in full here