Examining the influence of generalized trust on life satisfaction across different education levels and socioeconomic conditions using the Bayesian Mindsponge Framework

Abstract

Extant literature suggests a positive correlation between social trust (also called generalized trust) and life satisfaction. However, the psychological pathways underlying this relationship can be complex. Using the Bayesian Mindsponge Framework (BMF), we examined the influence of social trust in a high-violence environment. Employing Bayesian analysis on a sample of 1237 adults in Cali, Colombia, we found that in a linear relationship, generalized trust is positively associated with life satisfaction. However, in a model including the interactions between trust and education level as well as between trust and socioeconomic status, generalized trust is found to be negatively associated with life satisfaction. In this non-linear relationship, both education level and socioeconomic status have moderating effects against the negative association between generalized trust and life satisfaction. In other words, less educated people living in worse socioeconomic conditions are more likely to have lower life satisfaction when they have higher levels of social trust. In contrast, highly educated people living in better socioeconomic conditions are more likely to have higher life satisfaction when they have higher levels of social trust. Due to the facilitating function of trust in information processing, lowering the rigor of the filtering system in a high-violence social environment will likely put an individual at risk. Based on our findings, we suggest that policymakers should consider the impacts of social contexts when advocating for increasing social trust. We also recommend that researchers carefully examine the psychological mechanism underlying an observed association before making suggestions for policymaking.

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