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The Gods Are Watching: An Experimental Study of Religion and Traditional Belief in Burkina Faso

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Traditional beliefs play an important role in many Sub‐Saharan African village societies. These beliefs imply immediate punishment for any breach of the moral code, and the possibility to influence an individual's life by the use of magic. We analyze the economic impact of traditional beliefs on behavior by conducting an experiment with microentrepreneurs in the environs of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). The salience of traditional beliefs is randomly varied through semistructured interviews. We find that priming traditional beliefs substantially increases prosocial behavior in the Trust Game. This effect is independent of age, gender, religious affiliation, or wealth.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Economics, Goethe-University Frankfurt

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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