Editor responsible for the content: Vassilis Saroglou  ©  2019

Major research areas and recent findings

Does religion enhance (pro)sociality?

  • Causal directions, effects of religious priming, real behavior, impact of the in-/out-group status, role of religious dimensions, explanatory processes, cross-religious differences, substantial overviews, ...

  • Ongoing research; initial fund by UCL-FSR (2002-2007)

  • Publications: 201720162015, 2013, 2013, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005

  • see impact on media

 
 

Atheists' prejudice differs from religious prejudice

in motives and values and capacity for "sin-sinner" distinction

(Liberal) nonbelievers' antireligious prejudice differs from (conservative) religionists' prejudice: it is motivated by liberal values (rationality, autonomy) and distrust of others and the word; and reflects effective distinction between religious acts/ideas to oppose and religious persons not to discriminate.

Religiosity predicts low sexual affects and behavior

partly differently for Christians and Muslims

In two samples of Christian and Muslim tradition, religiosity predicted less frequent heterosexual behaviors, through sexual guilt, inhibition, and low sexual fantasy and search for sexual pleasure. But, in Muslims, religiosity did not directly undermine fertility-oriented sexuality and the search for pleasure.

Atheists are prejudiced against ideological opponents

i.e. anti-liberals, fundamentalists, but also mere religionists 

In a study in three EU countries, whereas both believers and nonbelievers were found to dislike antiliberal groups (antigay activists & fundamentalists), atheists and agnostics showed prejudicial discriminatory attitudes toward antiliberals, but also mere Christians; and atheists did so also tw. Buddhists.

Religious morality is mostly similar across cultures

but still religious denomination and culture matter

In an extended review of cross-cultural & international studies, we found key similarities bt the world religions on moral issues related to family, sexuality, altruism, & work, but also nuances depending on country-level factors, and differences in moral issues related to economy, environment, & citizenship.

Personality characteristics of religion across cultures:

some are similar but others depend on the cultural context

Cross-cultural evidence across continents reveals agreeableness (consistently) and conscientiousness (not in East Asia) as quasi-universals of religiosity, but also differences on religion's links with all big five personality traits following the civilizational zone and other cultural differences at the country-level. 

Opposing (antiliberal) Muslim ideas does not protect

from discriminating Muslims as persons

In two experiments, Western Europeans were able to distinguish between opposing Muslim antiliberal ideas and not discriminating a Muslim, compared to a Christian, target for a noble cause, but they still showed discrimination by penalizing more a Muslim than a Christian antiliberal. 

Religious priming increases sexism

for sure, benevolent sexism, even among women

Across four experiments in Belgium and the US, priming religious concepts consistently increased subtle, benevolent, sexism (protective paternalism, traditional gender roles, idealized purity), in men and women, believers or not, of Catholic and Protestant background. 

Need for social closeness: higher among the religious

Just to be together, not strictly for prosocial motives

Across three studies using implicit and behavioral measures, religious people showed high social closeness by implicitly preferring pictures involving affiliation, siting close to a chair previously occupied by someone else, and playing with an ingroup member in a Cyberball game. 

Compassion: in favor of or against child euthanasia?

The interplay of ideological, cognitive, and emotional factors

In a study among Belgian adults, those who disapproved child euthanasia tended to be religious, hold collectivistic values (loyalty & purity), had low flexibility in existential issues, and showed mixed prosocial dispositions, i.e. high emotional empathy, but not necessarily valuing care and fairness.

Struggling between deontology and consequentialism:

Religious people focus on the severity of consequences

What if (impersonal) deontology and care/consequentalism are in conflict? Using moral dilemmas, we found that religiosity predicts deontology over prosociality (partly due to purity) when the consequences for the target are minor, but not when they are severe: care has a suppressor effect.