How Good Is the Samaritan, and Why? An Experimental Investigation of the Extent and Nature of Religious Prosociality Using Economic Games

Forthcoming in Social Psychology and Personality Science

18 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2014 Last revised: 21 Jan 2016

See all articles by Jim Everett

Jim Everett

University of Oxford

Omar Haque

Harvard University

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: January 20, 2016

Abstract

What is the extent and nature of religious prosociality? If religious prosociality exists, is it parochial and extended selectively to co-religionists, or is it generalized regardless of the recipient? Further, is it driven by preferences to help others or by expectations of reciprocity? We examined how much of a $0.30 bonus Mechanical Turk workers would share with the other player whose religion was prominently displayed during two online resource allocation games. In one game (but not the other), the recipient could choose to reciprocate. Results from both games showed that the more central religion was in participants’ lives, the more of the bonus they shared, regardless of whether they were giving to atheists or Christians. Furthermore, this effect was most clearly related to self-reported frequency of “thinking about religious ideas”, rather than belief in God or religious practice/experience. Our findings provide evidence of generalized religious prosociality and illuminate its basis.

Note: An older version of this paper was titled "Love Thy (Atheist) Neighbor? An Experimental Investigation of the Extent of Religious Prosociality Using Economic Games".

Keywords: psychology, religion, prosocial behaviour, atheists

JEL Classification: C70, C79, C90, C91, C92, D64, D70

Suggested Citation

Everett, Jim and Haque, Omar and Rand, David G., How Good Is the Samaritan, and Why? An Experimental Investigation of the Extent and Nature of Religious Prosociality Using Economic Games (January 20, 2016). Forthcoming in Social Psychology and Personality Science. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2484659 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2484659

Jim Everett (Contact Author)

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Omar Haque

Harvard University ( email )

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David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

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