Policy vs Ethnicity: What this Study on Indigenous Groups in Chile Teaches Us About Factors Affecting Trust in the Workplace | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

Summary of:

Miranda, D., Love, G., Carlin, R., González, R., & Navia, P. (2021). Ethnicity or policy? The conditioning of intergroup trust in the context of ethnic conflict. Political Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12747

Background & Theory

Intergroup trust is an important foundation for cooperation (Brewer & Alexander, 2002), whereas prolonged violent intergroup conflict accentuates distrust. Ethnicity refers to a sense of belonging to a collective on the basis of shared culture, ancestry, language, race, history, or religion. In this paper, the researchers sought to explore these constructs in the context of ethnic conflict in Chile. There is a consistent divide in trust attitudes between members of indigenous groups and Chileans who identify as “non-indigenous.” The Mapuche are the central indigenous group in Chile’s ethnic conflict. They suffered land rights infringements, cultural suppression, and severe economic and social deprivation.

Research Question(s)

The researchers had the following hypotheses:

H1: Individuals should display more trust in those who share their ethnic identity than those who do not.

H2: Individuals should show more trust in those with whom they agree on interethnic redistributive tax policy than in those with whom they disagree.

H3: To the extent that nonindigenous Chileans identify with the Mapuche, it may structure their preferences for pro-Mapuche redistribution, and in turn, condition trust in individuals who support/oppose such policies.

H4: Leftists (rightists) will be more trusting of those who favor (oppose) pro-Mapuche redistributive policy (raising taxes to support Mapuche development).


1134 Chilean participants (1105 nonindigenous, 29 Mapuche) were selected for an online survey and behavioral games administered by Netquest.

The study employed a within-participant experimental design in which participants were randomly assigned to play behavioral trust games. The gameplay proceeds was: Player 1 and Player 2 are told that each is endowed with 5 caracole points (to avoid inequality aversion) and that neither will learn exactly who the other is (to ensure anonymity).

Player 1 is told she (or he) can send between 0 and 5 of her points to her anonymous partner, Player 2, and that any amount sent will be tripled. She is also told that Player 2 will have the opportunity—but will not be required—to return any portion of those points (the tripled allocation plus their endowment) to Player 1.

Post the game, hypotheses 3 and 4 were tested with a survey post the game that looked at three measures- a) ethnic identification and affinity, b) political ideology, and redistributive policy stances, d) trustor antecedent affinities, and trust bias.

The within-subject trust-game design allows participants to allocate between 0 and 5 Netquest caracole points to the other player in the four given conditions.


For H1, the researchers found that there is no consistent evidence that coethnicity improves intergroup trust. For H2, they concluded that those who share similar policy stances exhibit greater levels of trust than those who do not. For H3, the more non-indigenous Chileans identify with the Mapuche, the stronger the impact of shared stances on pro-Mapuche redistribution policy on intergroup trust. In line with the final hypothesis on the role of political ideology, leftists were more trusting of supporters of the policy than nonsupporters, while rightists were much more trusting of nonsupporters than supporters.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  1. Building Trust Across Lines– This study has a phenomenal conclusion about how ethnicity is not the only common factor for building trust, but so is mutual support for policies. At the workplace, it may be that certain employees prefer certain policies and that is the reason for their getting along. What is good about this is that it cuts across superficial factors of nationality and ethnicity and makes the reason for bonding to be more professionally relevant. However, this may also lead to alienation and polarization of employees in case they disagree too much about a company or national policy, or even a team decision. It’s good to build like-minded teams and cohesiveness, but it is not always possible to do so.
  2. Building Trust in General– There is plenty of research that suggests that trust can be built through positive intergroup contact. To ensure that this is a regular exercise, the management must be consistent and committed to building the space and time for such trust-building to take place. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to enhance the interpersonal trust quotient of your organization and make your workplace more inclusive!

Anupriya Kukreja

Anupriya Kukreja is a graduate in Political Science and Psychology from Ashoka University in India. She has interned at Hospitals in their psychology departments and worked at reputed policy organizations, as well as been an Albright Fellow at Wellesley College. At PPS, she examines the latest research in international conflict and writes about how such methods may apply to conflict in the workplace. She is also a part of APA Division 48’s official Newsletter "The Peace Psychologist’s" editorial team. Her long-term career goal is to apply the lens of Behaviour science to Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, and Organizational Transformation.


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