This paper argues that generalized social trust enhances collective action in situations with a large number of actors, who do not have specific information on each other. This effect comes about through the social exchange heuristic, which stimulate conditional cooperation in social dilemmas. This paper tests this explanation in an individual level test. While the relationship between generalized social trust and large-N collective action is often hypothesized, there is scant micro level evidence as it has mainly been tested at the macro level. Using recycling behavior as an indicator of collective action, the paper shows that people holding generalized social trust cooperate more readily in large-N dilemmas. These results are based on a unique survey of respondents in four countries.
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Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference, 2009