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For some people, religion strongly influences their worldviews. We propose that religious outgroups threaten the foundational beliefs of people with strong religious worldviews (RWVs) by endorsing alternative belief systems and that this threat contributes to religious prejudice. To examine these ideas, we developed a measure of RWV strength and assessed the role of RWV threat in religious prejudice. Across five studies, strength of RWV was related to religious prejudice, including derogation and denial of alternative religious viewpoints, as well as support for suppressing, avoiding, and even aggressing against religious outgroups. These responses were strongest toward religious outgroups whose worldviews were the most different, and therefore most threatening. Mediational analyses revealed that strong RWV people expressed heightened prejudice because of the worldview threat posed by religious outgroup members. These findings indicate that the avoidance and subjugation of religious outgroups can serve as a worldview protection strategy for some people. © 2015 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
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Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin
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DOI: 10.1177/0146167215599761
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Article
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and
offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and
avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus
Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering
speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
—Romans 16:17-18
Since ancient times, humans across the globe have cherished
the ability to enhance their experiences of the world by per-
ceiving it through a religious lens (Smart, 1989). However, a
clearly defined and unified religious worldview that all peo-
ple share remains elusive. Intergroup conflict and religious
strife also persist as tenacious elements of religion’s perva-
sive presence. Although the Christian Crusades of the 11th to
13th centuries are long over, many of the most contentious
conflicts today involve religion. For example, tensions
between Christians and Muslims remain high, along with
tensions between Protestants and Catholics in Northern
Ireland, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, Hindus and
Muslims in India and Pakistan, and Islamic sects all over the
world. We argue that religious prejudice is an enduring cor-
relate of religious differences because people are motivated
to protect their religious worldviews from threats posed by
religious outgroups. By contradicting one’s religious world-
view through the endorsement of an alternative worldview,
religious outgroup members can threaten a person’s founda-
tional approach to the world. The present work tests the idea
that people whose worldviews are strongly shaped by their
religion derogate and avoid religious outgroup members
(i.e., respond with religious prejudice) because religious
differences threaten their religious worldviews. By demon-
strating the important role of worldview threat in religious
prejudice, the present approach can contribute to a better
understanding of both worldview defense and religious
prejudice.
Worldviews
Throughout our lives, we put a considerable amount of effort
into navigating extremely complicated physical and social
worlds. Our decisions and interpretations of our experiences
are heavily influenced by our worldviews. A worldview is an
individual’s subjective beliefs and assumptions about reality
599761PSPXXX10.1177/0146167215599761Personality and Social Psychology BulletinGoplen and Plant
research-article2015
1State University of New York at Oswego, USA
2Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA
Corresponding Author:
Joanna Goplen, State University of New York at Oswego, 402, Mahar
Hall, 7060 Route 104, Oswego, NY 13126-3599, USA.
Email: joanna.goplen@oswego.edu
A Religious Worldview: Protecting One’s
Meaning System Through Religious
Prejudice
Joanna Goplen1 and E. Ashby Plant2
Abstract
For some people, religion strongly influences their worldviews. We propose that religious outgroups threaten the foundational
beliefs of people with strong religious worldviews (RWVs) by endorsing alternative belief systems and that this threat
contributes to religious prejudice. To examine these ideas, we developed a measure of RWV strength and assessed the
role of RWV threat in religious prejudice. Across five studies, strength of RWV was related to religious prejudice, including
derogation and denial of alternative religious viewpoints, as well as support for suppressing, avoiding, and even aggressing
against religious outgroups. These responses were strongest toward religious outgroups whose worldviews were the most
different, and therefore most threatening. Mediational analyses revealed that strong RWV people expressed heightened
prejudice because of the worldview threat posed by religious outgroup members. These findings indicate that the avoidance
and subjugation of religious outgroups can serve as a worldview protection strategy for some people.
Keywords
religious prejudice, worldviews, worldview defense
Received January 29, 2014; revision accepted July 17, 2015
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2 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
and his or her existence within that reality (Koltko-Rivera,
2004). A person’s worldview directly affects his or her cogni-
tion, motivation, behavior, and relationships with the world
and other people (see Koltko-Rivera, 2004, for a review).
Worldviews serve important psychological functions by
imbuing the world with meaning and order to create feelings
of predictability, certainty, and self-worth (e.g., Greenberg,
Solomon, & Pyszczynski, 1997; Janoff-Bulman, 1989;
Major, Kaiser, O’Brien, & McCoy, 2007; McGregor, Zanna,
Holmes, & Spencer, 2001).
Due to the reliance people have on their worldviews,
experiencing disconfirmation of worldviews can be life-
transforming or even catastrophic (Koltko-Rivera, 2004).
People are therefore motivated to maintain and protect their
worldviews. People experience a worldview threat when
they encounter information that contradicts their core subjec-
tive beliefs about the way the world works, and people
actively engage in cognitive processes and behaviors to com-
bat such threats (Hardin & Higgins, 1996; Hart, Shaver, &
Goldenberg, 2005; Lerner, 1980). For example, people avoid
others who do not share their worldview (e.g., Hardin &
Higgins, 1996; Kruglanski, Pierro, Mannetti, & De Grada,
2006) and respond with prejudice or discrimination to world-
view violators when in need of bolstering their worldviews
(Greenberg et al., 1990; Major et al., 2007; Solomon,
Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 2000). In extreme cases, people
will even support violence against worldview violators when
they feel their worldview is being threatened (Lieberman,
Arndt, Personius, & Cook, 2001). Thus, people are moti-
vated to maintain their worldviews and will avoid, derogate,
and even aggress against others to do so.
Religious Worldviews
For many people, religion functions as an important set of
beliefs about the world through which they interpret their
reality and make meaning of their lives (Baumeister, 1991;
Durkheim, 1912/1954; James, 1902/1982; Park, 2007;
Silberman, 2005). By providing answers to many of life’s
deepest questions, a religious worldview (RWV) affects a
myriad of psychological processes in addition to simple self
and world beliefs, including contingencies, expectations,
goals, motivations, and emotions (see Silberman, 2005, for a
review).
For example, many religious belief systems provide peo-
ple with a sense of certainty about the important existential
question of what happens to us after we die (Vail et al., 2010).
People who are more religious exhibit less of a tendency to
defend their psyches against fears of death (Friedman &
Rholes, 2008; Jonas & Fischer, 2006; Norenzayan, Dar-
Nimrod, Hansen, & Proulx, 2009). In addition, religion pro-
vides more general but similarly beneficial feelings of
certainty and control about day to day experiences (Hogg,
Adelman, & Blagg, 2010; Inzlicht & Tullet, 2010; Kay,
Gaucher, McGregor, & Nash, 2010). Religiosity also benefits
people by connecting them to other people (Graham & Haidt,
2010; Kinnvall, 2004), connecting them to caring and atten-
tive supernatural beings (Epley, Akalis, Waytz, & Cacioppo,
2008; Granqvist, Mikulincer, & Shaver, 2010; Kirkpatrick,
1998), and providing them with an avenue through which
they can feel good about themselves (Crocker, Luhtanen,
Cooper, & Bouvrette, 2003; Sedikides & Gebauer, 2010).
Thus, RWVs serve important psychological functions.
These benefits of a RWV may be threatened by others
who endorse alternative worldviews, resulting in interfaith
tension. For an individual with a strong RWV, simply under-
standing that other people believe something very different is
threatening because it suggests on some level that one’s
beliefs might be wrong (Hardin & Higgins, 1996).
Furthermore, the more inconsistent an outgroup’s worldview
is with one’s own, the greater the threat posed by that out-
group. There are several strategies that people with a strong
RWV might use to maintain their RWV when faced with reli-
gious outgroups. They may avoid religious outgroups alto-
gether and thereby avoid confronting the alternative
worldviews. They may derogate religious outgroups and
thereby derogate the alternative worldviews. They may dou-
ble down on their certainty in their own RWV, taking a fun-
damentalist approach to religion and dismissing other
worldviews as evil. They may even aggress against religious
outgroups in an attempt to repress or even annihilate the
alternative worldviews. All of these RWV protection strate-
gies also constitute religious prejudice. Thus, if a person’s
religious beliefs are a core part of his or her foundational
approach to the world, religious prejudice may result from
the need to defend that worldview from competing world-
views. The role of worldview threat in religious prejudice is
the focus of this article.
Religious Prejudice
Basic intergroup processes, whereby people prefer their
ingroup over outgroups, contribute to religious prejudice as
they do to all forms of prejudice (Jackson & Hunsberger,
1999; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). However, recent work sug-
gests that prejudice can also originate from specific per-
ceived threats posed by specific outgroups (Cottrell &
Neuberg, 2005; Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu, 2002). We posit
that worldview threats are an important cause of negative
attitudes and responses toward religious outgroups. If world-
view threats are an important driver of religious prejudice,
then people will be particularly likely to be prejudiced
against religious outgroups when their worldviews are
strongly shaped by their religion. This theorizing fits with
past research demonstrating a link between level of religios-
ity and religious prejudice such that more religious people
tend to report greater religious prejudice (Hunsberger &
Jackson, 2005; Jackson & Hunsberger, 1999). Jackson and
Hunsberger (1999) further suggested that religious groups
compete for the promotion of their values over the values of
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Goplen and Plant 3
alternative belief systems. Competition and conflict may
serve the religion as an entity per se, but may also benefit the
individuals who comprise that religion because religious
prejudice allows one to manage the worldview threats posed
by those who endorse alternative belief systems.
The Present Work
The central premise of the present work is that religious
worldview differences are threatening and lead to religious
prejudice. Specifically, we predict that RWV differences will
result in avoidance, suppression, and derogation of, and even
support for aggression toward religious outgroup members.
These responses should theoretically be most pronounced
among people whose religion strongly influences their
worldviews and against religious outgroups who pose the
greatest worldview threat (i.e., those with the most divergent
worldviews). We investigate the role of RWV threats in reli-
gious prejudice by measuring strength of RWV and assessing
responses to religious outgroups who endorse different
worldviews. Across a series of studies, we explore the idea
that worldview threats are an important cause of religious
prejudice.
Study 1A
The purpose of Study 1A was to examine whether strength
of RWV is related to intensity of religious prejudice. We
first developed an assessment of the degree to which reli-
gion influences a person’s worldview. Although we pre-
dicted that people who express stronger religiosity would,
on average, be more likely to endorse a RWV, we wanted to
create a measure that directly and exclusively assesses the
impact of religion on people’s worldviews. We predicted
that people with a strong RWV would express heightened
prejudice against religious outgroups but not racial out-
groups. In addition, we predicted that the degree of preju-
dice expressed against a particular group would be based on
the degree to which that group’s worldview differed from,
and therefore was the most potentially threatening to, the
RWV of the participant. Specifically, strong RWV Christians
were expected to report more prejudice against outgroups
with highly different worldviews (e.g., Atheists, who do not
believe in a god) than outgroups with more similar world-
views (e.g., Jews, who share the Old Testament and many
religious teachings).
Method
Participants. Eighty-five undergraduate psychology students
participated in exchange for partial course credit. The par-
ticipants were 55% female, 71% White, 9% Black, 8% His-
panic, 7% Asian, and 5% other or mixed race. They
self-identified as 75% Christian, 15% Atheist/Agnostic, 8%
Jewish, and 1% Islamic.
Materials. We created 20 items tapping into three key aspects
of RWVs—knowledge, morality, and purpose in life. Reli-
gion can influence people’s worldviews by providing them
with knowledge about how the world was created and oper-
ates. Religion can also influence people’s moral worldviews
by defining what is morally right or wrong. Finally, religion
can have an important impact on a person’s purpose in life
because religion can help imbue one’s life with meaning and
a sense of purpose. A reliability analysis indicated that one
item reduced the interitem reliability of the measure, and it
was removed from the scale and not used in future examina-
tions. The resulting 19-item scale was highly reliable (α =
.97; see the appendix for the RWV scale). We examined the
factor structure of the RWV scale in a large sample of under-
graduate psychology students (n = 1,147, 65% female) using
an exploratory factor analysis with an Oblimin rotation. The
scree analysis indicated that there was one strong factor
(eigenvalue = 13.01) which accounted for 68.5% of the vari-
ance in responses.
Prejudice against each social group was assessed with 7
items rated on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree)
scale (sample items: “I would never vote for a Hindu for
president” and “Hindus and non-Hindus are inherently
equal”—reverse-scored). The religious groups included
Atheists1 (α = .88), Jews (α = .81), and Hindus (α = .83). For
the racial outgroup, non-Black participants answered ques-
tions about Black people and Black participants answered
questions about White people (α = .80).
Procedure. Participants completed the questionnaires in
group settings with the order of the measures counterbal-
anced. At the end, all participants reported their demograph-
ics including religious group membership.
Results and Discussion
As was predicted, RWV was correlated with prejudice
against all of the religious outgroups (see Table 1 for all Ms
and r values) such that a stronger RWV was associated with
more religious prejudice. RWV was unrelated to prejudice
against a racial outgroup, suggesting that RWV differences
relate to religious prejudice but not racial prejudice.
Mixed-design general linear models tested the hypothesis
that people with a strong RWV would differentiate between
religious outgroups more than people with a weak RWV (see
Figure 1). We selected the Christian participants and tested
the role of RWV in differences of prejudice against the three
religious outgroups, with prejudice against each religious
group (Jews, Hindus, and Atheists) as the within-subjects
variable and RWV as the between-subjects continuous vari-
able. Main effects of group, F(2, 61) = 38.05, p < .001, and
RWV, F(1, 62) = 21.22, p < .001, on prejudice were qualified
by the predicted interaction between group and RWV, F(2,
61) = 4.97, p = .01, partial η2 = .14; 95% confidence interval
(CI) = [.01, .29].
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4 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
To understand this interaction, we assessed the simple
effects of group at strong (1 SD above M) and weak (1 SD
below M) levels of RWV. People with strong RWVs clearly
differentiated between their prejudice against Jews, Hindus,
and Atheists, F(2, 61) = 31.71, p < .001, partial η2 = .51; 95%
CI = [.32, .62]. Consistent with our theorizing, people with
strong RWVs reported the least prejudice against Jews and
the most prejudice against Atheists with prejudice against
Hindus falling in between. Contrast effects demonstrated
that people with strong RWVs were less prejudiced against
Jews than Hindus, F(1, 62) = 20.42, p < .001, partial η2 = .25,
and less prejudiced against Hindus than Atheists F(1, 62) =
20.44, p < .001, partial η2 = .25.
For people with weak RWVs, group also predicted preju-
dice, F(2, 61) = 11.06, p < .001, partial η2 = .27; 95% CI =
[.08, .41], but did so much more weakly than at strong levels
of RWV. People with weak RWVs reported the same level of
prejudice against Atheists and Hindus, F(1, 62) = .19, p =
.67, partial η2 < .01, but reported more prejudice against
Atheists than Jews, F(1, 62) = 12.65, p = .001, partial η2 =
.17, and more prejudice against Hindus than Jews, F(1, 62) =
17.95, p < .001, partial η2 = .23.
In Study 1A, RWV was related to prejudice against all
religious outgroups with the most prejudice being reported
against people with the most different RWVs. RWV was
unrelated to racial prejudice, however, demonstrating dis-
criminate validity of the RWV construct.
Study 1B
The purpose of Study 1B was to assess how RWV relates to
three additional, potential RWV protection strategies. We
suspected strong RWV people would favor suppressing
alternative beliefs. We therefore predicted that people with a
strong RWV would support suppression of religious out-
groups and would be unsupportive of science. Many RWVs
entail a description of a world that contradicts what the sci-
entific study of our world indicates (e.g., the evolution vs.
creationism debate). Thus, to the extent that scientific find-
ings contradict people’s RWV, people with a strong RWV
likely perceive science as a worldview threat and would
therefore be less interested in promoting scientific research
than people with a weak RWV. In addition, we predicted that
RWV would be related to support for aggression against
religious outgroups because aggression is a potentially
effective strategy to suppress or even eradicate worldview
threats. However, we suspected that people would be hesi-
tant to condone outgroup aggression (i.e., people are
unlikely to agree with statements that members of a reli-
gious outgroup should be harmed simply because of their
group membership). Therefore, we assessed support for
aggression against Muslims suspected of terrorism to pro-
vide an alternative “justification” for the aggressive response
besides religion.
Method
Participants. Forty-nine undergraduate psychology students
participated in Study 1B in exchange for partial course credit.
The participants were 39% female, 78% White, 10% Black,
6% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 4% other or mixed race, and
had an average age of 19. They self-identified as 88% Chris-
tian, 6% Atheistic/Agnostic/Spiritual, 4% Jewish, and 2%
Taoist.
Materials and procedure. Participants completed the study in
groups. They first completed a series of items tapping into
the three RWV protection strategies on a 1 (strongly dis-
agree) to 9 (strongly agree) scale. Eight items assessed sup-
pression of religious outgroups/religious intolerance (sample
item: “This is a Christian nation and people just need to deal
with it,” α = .73). Five items assessed support for science
(sample item: “Too much emphasis is placed on science in
our society” [reverse-coded], α = .56). Six items assessed
support for aggression against Muslims connected to terror-
ism (sample item: “When interrogating Islamic fundamental-
ists, it is sometimes okay to use practices that some may
consider torture,” α = .78). Participants then completed the
RWV scale (α = .97) and answered demographic questions
including their religious group membership.
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations With
RWV of Prejudice Measures.
Group M SD r value p value
Atheists 3.46 1.31 .61 <.001
Jews 2.27 1.03 .47 <.001
Hindus 2.78 1.21 .50 <.001
Racial outgroup 2.23 1.09 .09 .43
Note. Each correlation sample includes all participants who are not
members of the group except for the racial outgroup analysis (which
included all participants; Study 1A). RWV = religious worldview.
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
Prejudice
Low RWV High RWV
Jews
Hindus
Atheists
Figure 1. Prejudice against different religious outgroups among
Christians as a function of RWV (Study 1A).
Note. RWV = religious worldview.
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Goplen and Plant 5
Results and Discussion
All participants were included in the analyses to assess sup-
port for science and support for aggression against Muslims.
When assessing religious intolerance, all non-Christians
were excluded. As was predicted, RWV was positively cor-
related with religious intolerance and support for aggression
against Muslims and negatively correlated with support for
science (see Table 2). These results provide further support
for the idea that people with strong RWVs are motivated to
protect their worldviews and may do so by suppressing other
religions, being less supportive of science, and being more
supportive of aggression against a religious outgroup.
Study 2
Central to our theory is the premise that RWV differences
contribute to religious prejudice because religious outgroups
threaten strong RWV people’s worldview. We therefore
wanted to demonstrate that perception of worldview threat
contributes to the relationship between RWV and religious
prejudice. In Study 2, we assessed participants’ RWVs and
then asked them to imagine they had a new roommate who
was either a Christian or an Atheist. Participants were asked
about the degree of threat posed by their roommate across
different threats (i.e., worldview, societal, and economic),
perceptions of dissimilarity between themselves and the
roommate, and their attitudes about (prejudice against) their
roommate. We predicted an interaction between RWV and
roommate condition on both worldview threat and prejudice
such that people with a strong RWV would perceive a greater
worldview threat and would report more negative attitudes
toward the Atheist than Christian roommate. To clearly dem-
onstrate that religious prejudice results from perceived
worldview threat posed by religious outgroups, we also pre-
dicted that worldview threat would mediate the effect of con-
dition on prejudice for people with a strong RWV.
We also examined whether the roommate was perceived
as posing an economic threat and a societal threat. We did not
expect that the Atheist roommate would be perceived as
more economically threatening than the Christian roommate,
because we do not theorize that religious outgroups are per-
ceived as more threatening than religious ingroups in all
ways. We did, however, anticipate that the Atheist roommate
would be perceived as posing a societal threat and that this
threat would be perceived most strongly by those with a
strong RWV. Past research suggests that religious majority
group members perceive religious minorities as posing a
societal threat by threatening the coordination, freedoms,
and culture of the mainstream religious group of a society
(Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005; Gervais & Norenzayan, 2012.)
We predicted that societal threat may also contribute to reli-
gious prejudice, particularly for those with a strong RWV,
because strong RWV people are more likely to view their
(mainstream) religion as a force that holds their society
together. Therefore, although we predicted that societal
threat would also mediate the effect of condition on preju-
dice for strong RWV people, we expected that worldview
threat plays a role in religious prejudice that is distinct from
societal threat.
We also assessed perceived dissimilarity to disentangle
the role of dissimilarity on negative attitudes toward reli-
gious outgroups. Past work has demonstrated that people
exhibit a preference for similar others over dissimilar others
(Byrne, 1961; Byrne et al., 1971; see Montoya & Horton,
2013, for a recent review). We predicted that our participants
would perceive the Atheist as more dissimilar, especially
participants with strong RWVs, and that this may also con-
tribute to increased negativity toward the Atheist compared
with the Christian. However, we wanted to assess the role of
worldview threat in religious prejudice while accounting for
these perceptions of dissimilarity to demonstrate that reli-
gious prejudice stems from more than perceived dissimilar-
ity. Thus, we predicted that RWV threat would continue to be
a significant mediator in our model for strong RWV people
even after controlling for the mediational effects of societal
threat and perceived dissimilarity.
Method
Participants and design. Sixty-five undergraduate psychology
students who self-identified as Christian or Agnostic2 par-
ticipated in exchange for partial course credit. Five partici-
pants failed an attention check that asked them to respond
with a 1 to a specific item, and they were excluded from the
analyses. The remaining 60 participants were 90% female
with an average age of 20. The design was a continuous
(RWV of participant) × 2 (Religious Group of Roommate:
Christian vs. Atheist) between-subjects design.
Materials and procedure. Participants came into the lab and were
told they would be participating in a study about how people
think about other people. RWV (α = .97) was measured, and
then participants were asked to imagine moving in with a same-
sex roommate whom they did not know prior to the assigned
living situation, and whom they soon found out was either an
Atheist or a Christian. To more fully engage the participants in
the manipulation, they were asked to spend 5 to 10 min writing
about what it would be like to live with this person.
Table 2. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations with
RWV of RWV Protection Strategies.
Measure M SD r value p value
Religious intolerance 4.90 1.33 .52 <.01
Support for aggression against
Muslims
4.33 1.58 .50 <.001
Support for science 5.86 1.27 −.44 <.01
Note. The sample for the analysis of religious intolerance included only
Christians (Study 1B). RWV = religious worldview.
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6 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Participants then indicated the extent to which they antici-
pated they would feel dissimilar to and various types of
threat from this roommate on a 1 (I would NOT feel this way
at all) to 9 (I would feel this way strongly) scale. These items
included 6 items to assess perceived dissimilarity (sample
item: “My roommate would differ from me in his/her beliefs
about the world,” α = .86), 3 items to assess economic threat
(sample item: “worried that my roommate will be more suc-
cessful than me,” α = .72), 3 items to assess societal threat
(sample item: “concerned that my roommate threatens to
corrupt American culture,” α = .63), and 10 items to assess
worldview threat (sample item: “My roommate would
threaten my fundamental approach to the world,” α = .83).
Participants completed these items in random order and then
completed 7 items to assess negativity toward their imagined
roommate (sample item: “I don’t think I would like my
roommate very much,” α = .84) on a 1 (strongly disagree) to
9 (strongly agree) scale. Finally, participants completed a
demographics questionnaire.
Results and Discussion
We first tested our prediction that people with a strong RWV
would be more prejudiced against Atheists than Christians.
We regressed negativity toward the roommate onto RWV,
condition, and the RWV × Condition interaction. The results
yielded a main effect of condition, β = −.35, p = .002, pr =
−.40, which was qualified by the predicted RWV × Condition
interaction, β = −.43, p < .001, pr = −.46; 95% CI = [−.65,
−.21]. Follow-up analyses of the interactive effect revealed
that people with a weak RWV did not differ in their attitudes
toward the Atheist and Christian roommate, p = .62. People
with a strong RWV, however, expressed more negativity
toward the Atheist roommate than the Christian roommate, β
= −.79, p < .001, pr = −.56; 95% CI = [−1.10, −.48].
We next tested the hypothesis that RWV would similarly
interact with condition to predict the perceived worldview
threat posed by the roommate. We regressed worldview
threat onto RWV, condition, and the RWV × Condition inter-
action. Results revealed only the predicted interaction
between RWV and condition, β = −.28, p = .03, pr = −.28;
95% CI = [−.53, −.02]. People with a weak RWV did not dif-
fer in their perceptions of worldview threat posed by the
Atheist and Christian roommate, p = .54. People with a
strong RWV, however, perceived higher levels of worldview
threat from the Atheist roommate than the Christian room-
mate, β = −.45, p = .02, pr = −.32; 95% CI = [−.80, −.09].
Mediation analyses. An important goal of Study 2 was to
assess whether worldview threat statistically mediated the
effect of roommate condition on prejudice for people with a
strong RWV (i.e., whether strong [but not weak] RWV people
reported more negativity toward Atheists than Christians
because they viewed Atheists as more threatening to their
worldview than Christians). We found that perceptions of
worldview threat predicted roommate negativity, β = .76, p <
.001. A bootstrapping analysis of the model above conducted
with Model 8 of Hayes’ PROCESS model script (2013; see
also Preacher & Hayes, 2008) provided CIs for the estimated
indirect effects of roommate condition on negativity through
perceived worldview threat for people with strong and weak
RWVs. Consistent with predictions, worldview threat signifi-
cantly mediated the effect of condition on negativity for peo-
ple with strong RWVs, 95% CI = [−1.6756, −.1637]. In
contrast, for people with weak RWVs, the indirect effect of
condition on prejudice through worldview threat was not sig-
nificant, 95% CI = [−.3079, 1.0424]. These results suggest
that for our participants whose worldviews were strongly
shaped by their religion, the roommate who did not share
their religious beliefs was perceived as a RWV threat, and this
perception of threat led to more negative attitudes toward the
Atheist roommate compared with the Christian roommate.
Other threats. We next conducted parallel analyses on the
other threats. For economic threat, we found only a main
effect of condition such that the Atheist roommate was per-
ceived as less economically threatening than the Christian
roommate, β = .36, p = .005, pr = .36. As predicted, RWV did
interact with condition to predict perceptions of societal
threat, β = −.33, p = .01, pr = −.36, and societal threat did
predict negativity toward the roommate, β = .78, p < .001.
Initial examination revealed a mediating effect of societal
threat similar to that of worldview threat such that perceived
societal threat significantly mediated the effect of condition
on negativity for people with a strong RWV, 95% CI =
[−.1.9178, −.2359], but not for people with a weak RWV,
95% CI = [−.1622, −.7869].
Dissimilarity. We also conducted parallel analyses on dissimi-
larity and found a main effect of condition on perceptions of
dissimilarity, β = −.46, p < .001, pr = −.57, and an interactive
effect of RWV and condition on perceived dissimilarity, β =
−.59, p < .001, pr = −.66. Perceived dissimilarity also pre-
dicted prejudice, β = .72, p < .001. Mediation analyses indi-
cated that dissimilarity also mediated the effect of condition
on negativity for people with a strong RWV, 95% CI =
[−3.3148, −1.1027], but not for people with a weak RWV,
95% CI = [−.1948, .9581].
Combined model. Given that our initial analyses indicated that
worldview threat, societal threat, and dissimilarity all medi-
ated the effect of condition on negativity for people with
strong RWVs, we wanted to clearly distinguish between these
three constructs in their independent contributions to religious
prejudice. To do this, we conducted a bootstrapping media-
tional analysis that included worldview threat, societal threat,
and perceived dissimilarity as parallel mediators in the same
model. This analysis allowed us to assess the mediational
effect of perceived worldview threat in our model while con-
trolling for the mediational effect of perceived societal threat
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Goplen and Plant 7
and perceived dissimilarity. In this model and for people with
a strong RWV, both worldview threat, 95% CI = [−1.1617,
−.0896], and societal threat, 95% CI = [−1.2231, −.0923],
were significant mediators of the effect of condition on nega-
tivity, but perceived dissimilarity was not, 95% CI = [−1.2139,
.2705] (see Figure 2). Consistent with the individual analyses
of the possible mediators, none of them were significant medi-
ators at low levels of RWV. This analysis indicates that both
worldview threat and societal threat play a significant and
independent role in religious prejudice. In addition, although
worldview differences create perceptions of dissimilarity,
which, when assessed alone, contribute to negative attitudes
toward dissimilar others, this effect was accounted for by the
worldview and societal threat in our combined model.
It is worth noting that the Study 2 sample was predomi-
nantly women. Some caution should be taken in generalizing
these effects to men although we have no reason to expect
that a larger proportion of men in the sample would have
significantly changed the results. Even considering this pos-
sible limitation, Study 2 provides strong support for our the-
ory that religious prejudice results from perceived threats to
a person’s RWV.
Study 3
Although Study 2 found that perceived worldview threat was
more relevant to religious prejudice than perceived dissimilar-
ity, it is still possible that our effects could have been partially
driven by strong RWV people using their religion-related atti-
tudes more than weak RWV people when reacting to religious
ingroup versus outgroup members. In Study 3, we sought to
rule out this alternative explanation by including a third
condition—someone whose religious group membership was
unknown. This allowed us to compare whether strong RWV
people preferred an ingroup member over a religion-unknown
other. If strong RWV Christians do not differ in their reactions
to another Christian and a religion-unknown other and instead
target their negativity to the Atheist, this would support our
findings from Study 2 that our effects are indeed driven by
worldview threat.
To test these ideas, we examined the role of RWV in
responses to an upcoming interpersonal interaction. An expe-
ditious approach to dealing with an interpersonal RWV threat
would be to avoid the threatening person altogether. To test
avoidance of religious outgroups among strong RWV peo-
ple, participants were led to believe they were going to inter-
act with another person (who was actually a confederate).
Worldview differences were manipulated (through the men-
tion of the confederate as being either an Atheist, a Christian,
or who made no mention of religion) and measured (through
the strength of the participants’ RWVs with our RWV scale).
Of interest were participants’ desires to avoid the upcoming
interaction. We predicted that among our Christian partici-
pants, RWV would be related to an increased desire to avoid
interacting with the Atheist, but would be unrelated to desire
to avoid the interaction in either of the other two conditions
Figure 2. Direct and indirect effects of condition on negativity via perceptions of RWV threat and societal threat for people with
strong RWVs (Study 2).
Note. Values are presented from the model that includes the non-significant mediator of perceived dissimilarity. RWV = religious worldview; CI =
confidence interval.
Represents significance at the p = .05 level, *at the p < .05 level, **at the p < .01 level, and ***at the p < .001 level.
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8 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
(Christian or religion-unknown control). This pattern would
suggest that it is not merely a preference for similar others
driving our effect (Byrne, 1961; Byrne et al., 1971) because
strong RWV Christians would not be differentiating between
the Christian and religion-unknown other. Instead, this pat-
tern would reinforce our findings from Study 2 that religious
prejudice among strong RWV people stems from the world-
view threat experienced when confronting people with a dif-
ferent perception of reality. We also assessed participants’
general level of religiosity to examine whether RWV, and not
just level of religiosity, was more relevant to predicting
avoidance of religious outgroup members.
Method
Participants and design. Sixty-nine undergraduate psychology
students who self-identified as Christian participated in
exchange for partial course credit. One participant was
excluded because he or she indicated that he or she person-
ally knew the confederate in the study.
The remaining 68 participants were 72% female, 72%
White, 10% Black, 10% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 6% mixed
race, and had an average age of 19 years. The design of the
study was a continuous (RWV) × 3 (Religious Group
Membership of Confederate: Christian, Atheist, or Religion-
unknown) quasi-experimental design.
Materials and procedure. Participants were told they would
be having an interaction with another student, but that they
would first view a video of this person introducing himself or
herself. All participants were shown a prerecorded video of a
same-sex White confederate.
Religious group membership was manipulated through
the video of the confederate. In all of the conditions, the con-
federates gave the exact same general description of them-
selves (e.g., grew up in Orlando, played intramural soccer,
enjoyed listening to music and hanging out with friends).
However, three quarters of the way through the video, the
confederates stated that they belonged to a student organiza-
tion which was either an Atheist organization (religious out-
group condition), Christian organization (religious ingroup
condition), or scuba diving club (control condition).
After viewing the video, participants then indicated the
extent to which they agreed with statements about the
upcoming interaction on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 9 (strongly
agree) scale. Eight items assessed the participant’s desire to
avoid the interaction (sample items: “I wish I could avoid
having this interaction,” and “I am looking forward to this
interaction” [reverse-coded], α = .76).
Finally, participants completed the RWV scale (α = .96)
and a demographics questionnaire. To assess participants’
general level of religiosity, participants completed a four-
item measure which asked about the strength and importance
of the participants’ religious beliefs and the frequency with
which they attend religious services and pray (α = .82). An
open-ended manipulation check was also included in the
demographics questionnaire that asked participants about the
student organization to which the confederate belonged.
Results and Discussion
All participants correctly answered the manipulation check
question except two participants in the control condition who
answered “soccer” instead of “scuba diving.” Because these
participants were in the control condition and the confederate
did mention playing intramural soccer, they were included in
the analyses.
We created two orthogonal contrasts—one compared the
Atheist condition with the control and Christian condition (2,
−1, −1 respectively), and the other compared the Christian
condition with the control condition (0, −1, 1). These two
contrasts, RWV, and their interactions were entered into a
regression equation to predict desire to avoid the interaction.
The analysis revealed that RWV interacted with the contrast
that compared the Atheist condition with the two other con-
ditions, β = .29, p = .034, pr = .27; 95% CI = [.02, .55]. No
other predictors were significant, including the interaction
between RWV and the contrast comparing the Christian con-
dition with the control condition, p = .96.
Probing this interaction revealed that among participants
with a weak RWV, condition did not affect the desire to avoid
interacting with the person in the video, β = −.23, p = .29, pr
= −.14 (see Figure 3). In contrast, participants with a strong
RWV reported a greater desire to avoid the interaction if their
partner was an Atheist (Y
= 3.97) than if they were in the
other two conditions ( Y
= 3.06), β = .41, p = .02, pr = .29;
95% CI = [.07, .76]. These findings indicate that people with
a strong RWV, but not those with a weak RWV, try to avoid
interacting with people who possess a different, and there-
fore likely threatening, RWV. As noted above, strong RWV
2
2.5
3
3.5
4
4.5
5
Comparison Atheist
Avoidance
Weak RWV
Strong RWV
Figure 3. Avoidance in Atheist versus the comparison
conditions (Christian and religion-unknown) as a function of
RWV (Study 3).
Note. RWV = religious worldview.
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Goplen and Plant 9
people did not differ in their desire to avoid the Christian
confederate compared with the religion-unknown confeder-
ate, suggesting that these effects were not simply due to a
preference for similar others. The effects also suggest that
strong RWV are not merely more heavily guided by their
religious beliefs when reacting to others because strong
RWV participants were not more interested in interacting
with another Christian compared with the religion-unknown
other.
If we repeated the above analysis replacing RWV with
general religiosity, none of the effects were significant,
including the parallel effect of general religiosity and the
contrast variable comparing the Atheist with the other condi-
tions, p = .14. Thus, the desire to avoid a religious outgroup
member was specific to strength of RWV and was not simply
due to degree of general religiosity.3
Study 4
We created the RWV scale because we did not believe that
existing measures of religiosity cleanly captured our indi-
vidual difference of interest (the extent to which a person’s
religion shapes his or her view of the world). Although gen-
eral religiosity did not predict religious prejudice in Study 3
to the extent that RWV did, we thought it was important to
more broadly assess RWV’s relations to several other mea-
sures of religiosity and to explore the role that a RWV plays
in religious prejudice when also considering these other
forms of religiosity. By using a larger sample, Study 4 also
allowed us to follow up on Study 3 with a more stringent test
of whether RWV predicts religious outgroup prejudice above
and beyond other measures of religiosity. To do this, we
assessed RWV, general religiosity, intrinsic religiosity,
extrinsic religiosity, religious fundamentalism, and religious
prejudice in an online community sample.
At the conceptual level, RWV most closely maps onto
intrinsic religiosity. Intrinsic religiosity is characterized as
the extent to which people live their religion by using their
religious teachings to seek value and meaning from life.
However, many of the items from the scale do not exactly
capture RWV as we have defined it. For example, people
may strongly agree with the Intrinsic Religiosity Scale item,
“I enjoy reading about my religion,” (Gorsuch & McPherson,
1989) but not necessarily apply their religious readings to
their worldviews. We therefore predicted that RWV and
intrinsic religiosity would be highly correlated, but that
RWV would play a stronger or unique role in predicting reli-
gious prejudice compared with intrinsic religiosity. Similarly,
we predicted that general religiosity would be correlated
with RWV, but that RWV would more strongly predict reli-
gious prejudice than general religiosity.
Extrinsic religiosity is characterized as the extent to which
people use their religion as a source of belonging or solace.
We predicted a weak or no correlation between extrinsic reli-
giosity and RWV because occasionally using one’s religion
is conceptually very different from one’s religion influencing
a person’s entire perspective of the world. We therefore pre-
dicted that extrinsic religiosity would not account for the
variance in prejudice due to RWV. Religious fundamental-
ism is characterized by a belief that, among the many RWVs,
there is one and only one religious teaching that is absolutely
or fundamentally true (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 2004). It
therefore represents a focus on RWV differences combined
with the affirmation that one’s own RWV is absolutely cor-
rect and in this way, may operate as a RWV protection strat-
egy. Fundamentalism is also a conservative approach to
one’s RWV, and conservative ideologies can be used as moti-
vated cognition to manage uncertainty and threat (Jost et al.,
2007). Brandt and Reyna (2010) proposed that fundamental-
ism provides people with a sense of consistency and closure
and found that closed-mindedness mediated the relationship
between fundamentalism and prejudice against value viola-
tors. Fundamentalism may therefore be motivated by the
need to manage RWV threats, such that the more people feel
their worldview is threatened by competing worldviews, the
more they embrace fundamentalism and the certainty it pro-
vides. If so, considering people’s strength of RWV may help
to identify who is likely to be threatened by religious out-
groups and, therefore, who is likely to embrace a fundamen-
talist approach to religion.
In addition, a central tenant of fundamentalism is the
belief that the one true religion is threatened by evil that must
be “vigorously fought” (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992,
p. 118). This means that religious outgroup prejudice is
essentially a part of religious fundamentalism as typically
measured (e.g., fundamentalism item: “When you get right
down to it, there are basically only two kinds of people in the
world: the Righteous, who will be rewarded by God; and the
rest, who will not,” [Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 2004]).
Fundamentalism can therefore be used to justify negative
attitudes toward people who threaten one’s RWV by derogat-
ing religious outgroups as evil.
Thus, we considered the possibility that fundamentalism
may act as a RWV protection strategy for people with strong
RWVs. By clinging fervently to the belief in the absolute
truth of one’s religion and closing one’s mind to alternative
belief systems, a person with a strong RWV could work
toward diffusing the RWV threat posed by religious out-
groups. We therefore predicted a strong relationship between
RWV and fundamentalism. Furthermore, codifying all
competing belief systems as evil essentially amounts to the
derogation of those competing belief systems. Because fun-
damentalism insinuates religious prejudice within the con-
struct, we predicted that fundamentalism would more
strongly predict religious prejudice compared with RWV. If
fundamentalism acts as a RWV protection strategy for peo-
ple with a strong RWV and this strategy leads to prejudice,
then fundamentalism would mediate the relationship between
RWV and prejudice. We tested this possibility in our final
study.
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10 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Method
Participants. One hundred-sixty Mechanical Turk workers
who were either Christian or Agnostics with Christian leanings
were paid $.25 to participate in the study. Eight of these partici-
pants were excluded from the analyses because they identified
their religious beliefs as something other than our target group.
The remaining 152 participants were 52% female, 77% White,
12.5% Black/African American, 5.3% Hispanic, 3.3% East
Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2% mixed race. Their ages ranged
from 18 to 74 with an average age of 37.
Materials and procedure. Participants first completed all mea-
sures of religiosity in random order. Our RWV scale was
administered on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 9 (strongly agree)
scale (α = .97). Intrinsic and Extrinsic religiosity was
assessed with Gorsuch and McPherson’s (1989) Intrinsic/
Extrinsic Religiosity–Revised Scales on 1 (strongly dis-
agree) to 5 (strongly agree) scales. Intrinsic religiosity was
assessed with eight items (sample item: “It is important to
me to spend time in private thought and prayer,” α = .89).
Extrinsic religiosity was assessed with six items (sample
item: “I go to church mostly to spend time with my friends,”
α = .62). The Revised Religious Fundamentalism Scale
(Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 2004) assessed fundamentalism
with 12 items on a 1 (very strongly disagree) to 9 (very
strongly agree) scale (sample item: “To lead the best, most
meaningful life, one must belong to the one, fundamentally
true religion,” α = .95). To assess participants’ general level
of religiosity, rather than a specific kind of religiosity, we
included the four-item measure from Study 3 (α = .88).
Finally, participants completed the same seven-item measure
of prejudice against Atheists used in Study 1A (α = .90) and
demographics.
Results and Discussion
RWV was correlated with all measures of religiosity except for
extrinsic religiosity which was also the only religiosity measure
that did not correlate with prejudice (see Table 3 for all correla-
tions). RWV was strongly correlated with intrinsic religiosity
suggesting a close connection between the constructs. RWV was
also strongly correlated with fundamentalism, which supports
our idea that strong RWV people are more likely to embrace
a fundamentalist approach to their religion as a method of
RWV protection. Because extrinsic religiosity is largely
based on religion as a means to meet social needs, the lack of
a correlation with prejudice indicates that religious prejudice
is less about basic group membership and more about what a
person’s religion means to him or her on an existential level.
To test our prediction that RWV would predict prejudice
above and beyond the other measures of religiosity (with the
exception of fundamentalism, which we consider below), we
included RWV, intrinsic, extrinsic, and general religiosity in
a multiple regression analysis predicting prejudice against
Atheists. When considered simultaneously with the other
measures of religiosity, RWV significantly predicted preju-
dice, β = .63, p < .001, pr = .33; 95% CI = [.34, .92], and the
other measures did not, all ps > .30. Our results therefore
indicate that, although intrinsic religiosity is quite similar to
RWV conceptually and general religiosity predicts prejudice
on its own, religious prejudice is better predicted by
measuring a person’ RWV rather than their level of intrinsic
orientation toward their religion or their general level of
religiosity.
We next examined which of the measures of religiosity best
predicted fundamentalism to assess whether RWV is the stron-
gest contributor to a fundamentalist (and thereby prejudiced)
approach to one’s religion. As predicted, RWV significantly
predicted fundamentalism when including all of the religiosity
measures as predictor variables, β = .83, p < .001, pr = .62;
95% CI = [.66, 1.00], and the other religiosity measures did
not, all other ps > .32. This is consistent with the idea that
strong RWV people may close their minds to other belief sys-
tems and justify their religious prejudice by adopting a funda-
mentalist approach to religion to ultimately manage the RWV
threats posed by religious outgroups. In addition, if we
included all of the religiosity variables as predictors in a
regression analysis with prejudice as the outcome variable,
fundamentalism predicted prejudice, β = .87, p < .001, pr =
.50; 95% CI = [.63, 1.11], and all other measures did not (RWV
p = .60, all other ps > .25). This pattern of results suggests that
RWV and fundamentalism are the key players in contributing
to prejudice but that fundamentalism may mediate the effect of
RWV on prejudice. A bootstrapping analysis confirmed that
fundamentalism mediated the relationship between RWV
Table 3. Bivariate Correlations Between RWV, Religious Prejudice, and Other Measures of Religiosity (n = 152).
Measure 1 2 3 4 5 6
1. RWV .67*** .90*** .11 .90*** .85***
2. Prejudice .61*** .13 .77*** .57***
3. Intrinsic religiosity .06 .81*** .83***
4. Extrinsic religiosity .14.16*
5. Fundamentalism — — .79***
6. General religiosity
Note. RWV = religious worldview.
Indicates marginal significance (p < .10). *Indicates significance at p < .05. ***Indicates significance at p < .001 (Study 4).
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Goplen and Plant 11
and prejudice, CI = [.6301, 1.0488], with strong RWV people
(compared with weak RWV people) being more likely to
endorse a fundamentalist approach to their religion, which is
associated with religious prejudice. These findings provide
insight into the people most likely to embrace a fundamental-
ist (and prejudice laden) approach to religion (i.e., those with
a strong RWV) and (in combination with our findings from
previous studies) why they take on this approach.
General Discussion
The present work tested the theory that worldview threat is
an important component of religious prejudice. For those
who base their worldviews on their religion, religious out-
group members’ endorsement of alternative worldviews is
threatening and leads to prejudiced responses to religious
outgroups. Across five studies, strength of RWV was related
to religious prejudice, including derogation and denial of
alternative religious viewpoints, support for suppressing and
avoiding religious outgroup members, and even support for
aggression against religious outgroups. Furthermore, this
prejudice was strongest when RWVs diverged the most (i.e.,
when people with a strong RWV reported on groups with the
most different worldview). Perhaps most importantly, RWV
differences were associated with religious prejudice because
religious outgroups were perceived as threatening to strong
RWV people’s worldviews.
Study 1A developed a highly reliable and direct measure
of the degree to which a person’s religion shapes his or her
worldview. This measure strongly predicted religious preju-
dice but not racial prejudice and the stronger the person’s
RWV, the more they discriminated between the religious out-
groups. Importantly, the more different the worldview of the
religious outgroup, the more prejudice was reported against
the outgroup by people with strong RWVs. Study 1B demon-
strated associations between RWV and RWV protection
strategies such as increased religious intolerance, decreased
support for science, and increased support for aggression
against Muslims among non-Muslims. Study 2 provided
support for our theory by demonstrating the mediational role
of perceived worldview threat in the relationship between
RWV differences and religious prejudice. In Study 3,
Christians with strong RWVs wanted to avoid interacting
with an Atheist, although they did not differ in their responses
to another Christian compared with a person of unknown
religious group membership. Christians with weak RWVs,
however, were unaffected by religious group membership of
their partner in their desire to have an interaction with that
person. Study 4 examined the relationship between RWV
and other measures of religiosity. RWV was a stronger pre-
dictor of religious prejudice than intrinsic, extrinsic, and
general religiosity. In addition, Study 4 revealed that people
with a strong RWV close their minds to and derogate other,
threatening RWVs by adopting a fundamentalist approach to
their religion. This heightened fundamentalism mediated the
relationship between RWV and prejudice. Although the sam-
ples in some of our studies were relatively small (e.g., Study
3, n = 68), the consistency of the results across studies and
the multiple replications of the relationship between RWV
and religious prejudice leave us confident in the findings.
Taken together, these studies suggest that people with strong
RWVs derogate, avoid, suppress, and even aggress against
people with differing RWVs in response to the worldview
threat posed by these people. That is, when religion influ-
ences a person’s worldview, religious prejudice may be used
as a religious worldview protection strategy.
These findings have important implications for interfaith
interactions and prejudice. People with strong RWVs who avoid
religious outgroup members as a means to protect their RWV
may perpetuate prejudice and interfaith tension. Intergroup con-
tact is one of the most effective routes to prejudice reduction
(Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006), and avoiding such contact elimi-
nates this opportunity. Furthermore, avoided and derogated out-
groups are at a real disadvantage in society. For example,
non-Christians who are routinely avoided and/or derogated in a
predominantly Christian culture may not only experience feel-
ings of discomfort and rejection but may also be deprived of
important social and even professional opportunities. Aggression
stemming from religious prejudice inflames interfaith tensions
and has the potential to develop into large-scale conflict.
These findings do have some promising implications,
however, in that they suggest that the quality of interfaith
interactions may be improved if people focus on similarities
in their RWVs. Most people share many of the same values
(e.g., refraining from harming others), and many religions
have similar tenets and overarching philosophies. Focusing
on how religious outgroups share important aspects of their
worldviews (essentially moving away from a fundamentalist
approach) may make strong RWV people less inclined to
avoid interfaith interactions, and these interactions may go
more smoothly. In addition, if strong RWV people are able to
bolster their RWV before or during an interfaith interaction,
it may reduce the pursuit of RWV protection strategies and
the concomitant prejudice against religious outgroups.
The present findings also pose some interesting questions
for future research. For example, although we certainly believe
that all types of worldviews are susceptible to worldview
threats posed by people who endorse alternative worldviews
(which can contribute to negativity toward worldview viola-
tors), it is possible that these processes may be stronger when
RWVs are at stake. RWVs not only include sacred elements
and transcendental experiences that are unmatched in depth or
breadth by other worldviews (Pargament, Magyar, & Murray-
Swank, 2005), they are also, by definition, based on faith
rather than experience. A lack of direct evidence for RWVs
can already lead their endorsers to struggle to preserve their
belief systems (Exline, 2002). These unique characteristics
may make RWVs particularly worth protecting while being
particularly vulnerable to worldview threats. Jackson and
Hunsberger (1999) found slightly negative attitudes toward
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12 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
religious people among non-religious people, demonstrating
that prejudice used to maintain a non-RWV is also possible.
A direct comparison between the strength of religious and
non-religious worldview protection strategies is an interest-
ing future research direction.
In addition, subsequent work should explore the effects of
the specific beliefs and values that make up different RWVs.
Christian participants made up the majority of all samples in this
research program. Future research should test the effects among
other religions and also examine distinctions in RWV within the
same religious group. Some RWVs may include a strong toler-
ance for alternative belief systems, whereas other religions may
specifically teach hatred of religious outgroups (Ellens, 2007;
Silberman, Higgins, & Dweck, 2005). Furthermore, Study 4
indicated that a fundamentalist approach to religion may stem
from the need to protect a strong RWV and may do so by clos-
ing one’s mind to alternative ideas and justifying prejudice
against outgroups. The influences of specific religions, religious
beliefs, and approaches to religion are important to explore in
future work.
There are many other factors that likely contribute to reli-
gious prejudice, and we in no way suggest that these studies
provide a comprehensive assessment of religious prejudice.
For example, particularly in the post-9/11 United States,
Muslims are perceived as posing a physical threat to many
Americans and are responded to in ways consistent with a
physical threat (Unkelbach, Forgas, & Denson, 2008). For
many White Christian Americans, Hindus are often per-
ceived as both a racial and/or national outgroup in addition to
a religious outgroup. Throughout the world, religious groups
compete over economic resources. The present work did not
control for these potential other factors, and future work
should explore these other sources of prejudice in conjunc-
tion with worldview protection processes.
Despite these limitations, the present work provides valu-
able insight into the role of worldview threat in religious
prejudice. Because all forms of prejudice are not identical, it
is important to understand the specific processes and out-
comes associated with each type of prejudice. Our work sug-
gests that people’s religions can strongly shape the way they
view the world and that religious outgroups pose a world-
view threat to such people. This RWV threat results in dero-
gation, avoidance, and suppression of, and possibly even
aggression toward people with differing RWVs. Integrating
individual differences in strength of RWV and perceptions of
RWV threat into the examination of religious prejudice con-
tributes to a better understanding of the causes and conse-
quences of this problematic form of intergroup prejudice.
Appendix
RWV Scale
For the following statements, please indicate the extent to
which you agree or disagree by selecting the corresponding
number from the provided scale.
_____ 1. My religious scriptures (e.g., Bible, Torah) are a
reliable source of knowledge.
_____ 2. My morals come from my religion.
_____ 3. The purpose of my life is to do my God’s work on earth.
_____ 4. My religious leaders give me important information
about the world.
_____ 5. I try hard to live my life the way my religion tells
me to live it.
_____ 6. I believe science is the only way that one can obtain
knowledge about the universe. (R)
_____ 7. When I am unsure whether an act is right or wrong,
I often look to my religion to give me the answer.
_____ 8. My purpose in life is NOT determined by my reli-
gion. (R)
_____ 9. There are some things about the way the world
works that I can only come to understand through religion.
_____ 10. My religion gives me a clear, stable set of morals
_____ 11. The meaning of life actually lies in what is beyond
this life.
_____ 12. My sense of right and wrong does NOT come
from my religion. (R)
_____ 13. My religious beliefs will NOT influence the career
I choose for myself. (R)
_____ 14. My religion has taught me how to lead a moral life.
_____ 15. I often look to my religion for directions when
making important life decisions.
_____ 16. I believe my religion has a plan for my life.
_____ 17. I believe that my religion holds the answers as to
how the universe was created.
_____ 18. If I were considering who to vote for in a political
election, I would NOT look to my religion to help me decide.
(R)
_____ 19. I believe my life is controlled by my God.
Note. RWV = religious worldview.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
Notes
1. Although some may not consider Atheists a “religious group”
because Atheists, by definition, lack a religion, we consider
them as one for our purposes because Atheists represent an
important group unified by a very different worldview from that
of the majority religion in our society.
2. We included participants who indicated they were Agnostic because
many of the Agnostics reported having been raised Christian,
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Strongly disagree Neutral Strongly agree
by guest on September 3, 2015psp.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Goplen and Plant 13
and all lived in a predominantly Christian society. By includ-
ing these Agnostics, we were able to maintain a large range of
religious worldview (RWV) strength because the Agnostics rep-
resent people with a Christian leaning but very weak RWV. We
were unable to include Agnostics in some samples because our
demographics questionnaire in those studies only included one
option for Atheist/Agnostic. Agnostics differ from Atheists in an
important way, however, in that they are unsure whether a god
exists or believe it is impossible to know whether a god exists,
whereas Atheists believe there is (are) no god (or gods).
3. If we simultaneously included both RWV and general religios-
ity, the key two-way interaction between RWV and the contrast
comparing the Atheist condition with the other two conditions
dropped below significance, β = .37, p = .12, pr = .20, and the
simple effect of RWV in the Atheist condition was weaker and
not quite significant, β = .49, p = .07, pr = .24 (from a pr = .29).
This weakening of the effect was likely due to the strong over-
lap between general religiosity and RWV and to a small sample
size in this study. However, the equivalent interaction for gen-
eral religiosity in this model did not come close to significance,
β = −.08, p = .71, pr = −.05.
Supplemental Material
The online supplemental material is available at http://pspb.sage-
pub.com/supplemental
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