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Social scientists have long been interested in the effects of social-political upheavals on a society subsequently. A priori, they would expect that, when traumas are brought about by outsiders, within-group behaviour would become more collaborative, as society unites against the common foe. Conversely, they would expect the reverse when the conflict is generated within-group.
The study is looking at this second form of upheaval, and its measure of within-group conflict is the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution (CR) that seriously disrupted many aspects of Chinese society. In particular, the study explores how individuals’ behavioural preferences are affected by within-group traumatic events experienced by their parents or grandparents. Using data from a laboratory experiment in conjunction with survey data, the study finds that individuals with parents or grandparents affected by the CR are less trusting, less trustworthy, and less likely to choose to compete than their counterparts whose predecessors were not direct victims of the CR.
Professor Xin Meng works at the Research School of Economics, College of Business and Economics, The ANU.