Religious Motivations for Cooperation: An Experimental Investigation Using Explicit Primes

Religion, Brain and Behavior, Forthcoming

32 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2012 Last revised: 6 Feb 2013

David G. Rand

Yale University

Anna Dreber

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics

Omar S. Haque

Harvard University

Rob Kane

Harvard University

Martin A. Nowak

Harvard University

Sarah Coakley

Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge

Date Written: Jan 28, 2013

Abstract

The role of religion in human cooperation remains a highly contested topic. Recent studies using economic game experiments to explore this issue have been largely inconclusive, yielding a range of conflicting results. In this study, we investigate the ability of religion to promote cooperation using explicit theological primes. In a first study conducted in a church, we find that subjects who report a stronger connection with a Christian religious passage about charitable giving subsequently are more likely to cooperate in a one-shot Prisoner’s Dilemma game. In a second study conducted over the Internet, we find that Christian subjects are more likely to cooperate after reading a particular Christian religious passage compared to a neutral passage, but that the particular Hindu and secular passages have no significant effect on Christians, and that none of the passages (Christian, Hindu or Secular) have an effect among non-Christians. Our results show the potential power of explicit religious exhortations for promoting cooperation, and also their selectivity.

Keywords: prosociality, prisoner’s dilemma, religiosity, theological priming

Suggested Citation

Rand, David G. and Dreber, Anna and Haque, Omar S. and Kane, Rob and Nowak, Martin A. and Coakley, Sarah, Religious Motivations for Cooperation: An Experimental Investigation Using Explicit Primes (Jan 28, 2013). Religion, Brain and Behavior, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2123243 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2123243

David G. Rand (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.DaveRand.org

Anna Dreber

Stockholm School of Economics - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 6501
Sveavagen 65
S-113 83 Stockholm
Sweden

Omar S. Haque

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Rob Kane

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Martin A. Nowak

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Sarah Coakley

Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

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