Most psychologists assume a harmonious correspondence between attitudes, behavior, and cultural institutions. However, institutions often act as intermediating forces between collective attitudes and behavior, and institutions’ value-expressive function may be at-odds with the actual behavioral outcomes they produce. We illustrate this with the paradox-of-debt: Protestant cultures have traditionally been relatively less sympathetic to debtors than Catholic cultures have been. Consequently, Protestant cultures set up more pro-creditor institutions. With lending being safer and more profitable in Protestant cultures, creditors increased the amount they were willing to lend. With more credit available, people now borrow more in Protestant (versus Catholic) cultures. Intermediating institutions may thus invert the usual attitude–behavior relationship, facilitating rather than inhibiting traditionally stigmatized behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas