Are Those Who Believe in God Really More Prosocial?

19 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018 Last revised: 21 Mar 2019

See all articles by Michael Stagnaro

Michael Stagnaro

Yale University - Department of Psychology

Antonio Arechar

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: March 16, 2019

Abstract

Whether those who believe in God are more prosocial has been a long debated topic. Here we shed new light on this question by examining giving in incentivized Dictator Games where no mention of religion was made, played online with anonymous strangers. Study 1 (N=10,184) found a significant correlation between belief and giving, r=.12 (robust to demographics). Study 2 (N=2,334) included the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) to examine whether this relationship could be explained by intuitive cognitive style driving both belief and prosociality. Study 2 replicated the correlation between belief and giving, r=.106, and found CRT to be negatively correlated with both belief, r=-.229, and giving, r=-.174. Critically, the relationship between belief and giving was reduced by 34.2% when controlling for CRT; and also adding basic demographics rendered the relationship non-significant. Our results suggest that - at least in this task and population - believers do show greater prosociality, but more due to intuitive cognitive style than a causal effect of belief.

Keywords: Religious Belief, Prosociality, Economic Games, Moral Psychology, Religious Psychology, Religious Cognition, Cognitive Style

Suggested Citation

Stagnaro, Michael and Arechar, Antonio and Rand, David G., Are Those Who Believe in God Really More Prosocial? (March 16, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3160453 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3160453

Michael Stagnaro (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Psychology ( email )

P.O. Box 208205
New Haven, CT 06520-8205
United States

Antonio Arechar

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

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

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