Undermining trust and cooperation: The paradox of sanctioning systems in social dilemmas
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Sanctioning systems in social dilemmas are often meant to increase trust in others and to increase cooperation. We argue, however, that sanctioning systems may also give people the idea that others act in their own self-interest and undermine the belief that others are internally motivated to cooperate. We developed the “Removing The Sanction” paradigm and a new trust manipulation, and showed in three experiments that when there is a sanction on defection, trust in others being internally motivated to cooperate is undermined: Participants who had experienced the presence of a sanctioning system trusted fellow group members less than participants who had not. In a similar vein, the sanction undermined cooperation when trust was initially high. The implications of these paradoxical findings are discussed.