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Religious People Are Trusted Because They Are Viewed as Slow Life-History Strategists


Abstract and Figures

Religious people are more trusted than nonreligious people. Although most theorists attribute these perceptions to the beliefs of religious targets, religious individuals also differ in behavioral ways that might cue trust. We examined whether perceivers might trust religious targets more because they heuristically associate religion with slow life-history strategies. In three experiments, we found that religious targets are viewed as slow life-history strategists and that these findings are not the result of a universally positive halo effect; that the effect of target religion on trust is significantly mediated by the target’s life-history traits (i.e., perceived reproductive strategy); and that when perceivers have direct information about a target’s reproductive strategy, their ratings of trust are driven primarily by his or her reproductive strategy, rather than religion. These effects operate over and above targets’ belief in moralizing gods and offer a novel theoretical perspective on religion and trust.
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Psychological Science
2018, Vol. 29(6) 947 –960
© The Author(s) 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797617753606
Research Article
Research has consistently demonstrated that religious
targets are viewed as more trustworthy than nonreligious
targets (e.g., Tan & Vogel, 2008), and, similarly, atheists
tend to be distrusted (Gervais, Shariff, & Norenzayan,
2011). Gervais and colleagues (2017) found that, across
13 nations, the majority of people—even atheists—tend
to associate immoral behavior with atheism.
The prevailing view on religion, irreligion, and trust
posits that intuitions about religion and trust are the result
of cultural group selection, with shared beliefs in punish-
ing deities allowing large-scale cooperation to evolve
(Norenzayan et al., 2016; Purzycki et al., 2016; Roes &
Raymond, 2003). In this view, religious behavior should
facilitate trust primarily toward coreligionists, par-
ticularly when it is diagnostic of belief in moralizing
deities. This framework has garnered significant empiri-
cal support (e.g., Shariff, Willard, Andersen, & Norenzayan,
Here, we propose an additional reason why religious
behavior might cultivate trust. Specifically, religious indi-
viduals tend to differ from nonreligious individuals in
more than merely belief—they also tend to behave in
ways consistent with a slow life-history (LH) strategy (i.e.,
they tend to be sexually restricted, invested in family,
nonimpulsive, and nonaggressive; Baumard & Chevallier,
2015). These traits are associated with cooperativeness
and prosociality. One possibility, then, is that perceivers
use religious affiliation or behavior as a cue to infer these
traits. Perception of these traits may facilitate trust above
and beyond shared belief in supernatural punishment
and may be particularly important in explaining why
religious behavior can also facilitate trust in out-group
perceivers (Hall, Cohen, Meyer, Varley, & Brewer, 2015;
McCullough, Swartwout, Carter, Shaver, & Sosis, 2016).
An LH Framework
Evolutionary biology’s LH theory has been used to
account for a wide range of behavior, both in humans
753606PSSXXX10.1177/0956797617753606Moon et al.Religion, Life History, and Trust
Corresponding Author:
Jordan W. Moon, Arizona State University, Department of Psychology,
950 S. McAllister Ave., Tempe, AZ 85287
Religious People Are Trusted Because
They Are Viewed as Slow Life-History
Jordan W. Moon , Jaimie Arona Krems, and Adam B. Cohen
Department of Psychology, Arizona State University
Religious people are more trusted than nonreligious people. Although most theorists attribute these perceptions to
the beliefs of religious targets, religious individuals also differ in behavioral ways that might cue trust. We examined
whether perceivers might trust religious targets more because they heuristically associate religion with slow life-history
strategies. In three experiments, we found that religious targets are viewed as slow life-history strategists and that these
findings are not the result of a universally positive halo effect; that the effect of target religion on trust is significantly
mediated by the target’s life-history traits (i.e., perceived reproductive strategy); and that when perceivers have direct
information about a target’s reproductive strategy, their ratings of trust are driven primarily by his or her reproductive
strategy, rather than religion. These effects operate over and above targets’ belief in moralizing gods and offer a novel
theoretical perspective on religion and trust.
evolutionary psychology, religious beliefs, religion, life-history theory, trust, open data, open materials
Received 9/16/17; Revision accepted 12/18/17
948 Moon et al.
and other animals (Stearns, 1992). This theory considers
the trade-offs individuals make to navigate the chal-
lenges unique to their environment. In a harsh or unpre-
dictable environment, where the future is less certain,
a fast LH strategy makes more sense—fast strategists
tend to mate early and frequently, discount the future
more steeply, display more aggression, and engage in
riskier behavior that may have more immediate payoffs
(Frankenhuis, Panchanathan, & Nettle, 2016). In con-
trast, individuals who come from stable, predictable
ecologies tend to adopt a slow LH strategy, entailing a
later sexual debut, fewer sexual partners, greater paren-
tal investment, lower levels of aggression and risk-
taking, and greater investment in education. These traits
and behaviors tend to cluster reliably together on a
fast-slow continuum (Ellis, Figueredo, Brumbach, &
Schlomer, 2009) and represent functional adaptations to
specific ecologies (Frankenhuis et al., 2016).
LH strategies have important implications for social-
ity, as extended prosociality and social trust are risky
for actors in unpredictable environments (Petersen &
Aarøe, 2015; Wilson, O’Brien, & Sesma, 2009). Not sur-
prisingly, then, fast strategies and associated traits (e.g.,
temporal discounting, risk taking, unrestricted sexual-
ity) are highly correlated with several noncooperative
or antisocial behaviors (Curry, Price, & Price, 2008; Ellis
et al., 2012; Jonason, Li, & Webster, 2009).
Social perceivers are keenly aware of the implica-
tions of LH strategy on their interactions with others,
as they intuitively link LH cues (e.g., ecology) with
suites of corresponding LH traits (Williams, Sng, &
Neuberg, 2016). Because trust is highly related to coop-
eration (Simpson, 2007), one might expect individuals
perceived as fast LH strategists to be considered poor
cooperators and, thus, less trustworthy than those
viewed as slow strategists.
Religious Individuals as Slow
LH Strategists
Recent work has linked religiosity to slow LH strategies
(for a review, see Baumard & Chevallier, 2015). Religious
individuals tend to display many of the traits evoked by
predictable ecologies, including lower levels of temporal
discounting, greater self-control, and sexual restricted-
ness (Carter, McCullough, Kim-Spoon, Corrales, & Blake,
2012; McCullough & Willoughby, 2009; Schmitt & Fuller,
2015; Weeden, Cohen, & Kenrick, 2008; Weeden &
Kurzban, 2013). Religious individuals are much more
likely to follow a committed reproductive strategy,1
pursuing high-commitment, monogamous relation-
ships, fewer sexual partners, and high parental invest-
ment. Some theorists even view religion and moral
intuitions as a consequence—rather than a cause—of
the reproductive or LH strategies people adopt (Gladden,
Welch, Figueredo, & Jacobs, 2009; Weeden & Kurzban,
The Present Work
One way perceivers might ascertain the likely disposi-
tion and cooperative value of others is through LH infor-
mation, and religion may serve as a valuable heuristic
about the LH tactics and, thus, trustworthiness of others.
In three experiments, we examined whether religious
targets are viewed as slow LH strategists and, if so,
whether this effect might partly explain why religious
individuals are generally deemed more trustworthy. In
Experiment 1, we demonstrated that religious (com-
pared with nonreligious) targets are viewed as slower
in several specific dimensions of LH strategy (i.e., repro-
ductive strategy, impulsivity, aggression, education, and
ecology) and were also deemed more trustworthy. In
Experiment 2, we manipulated targets’ reproductive
strategies (a significant mediator in Experiment 1) in
addition to their religion. We found that direct informa-
tion about LH strategy (i.e., the target’s “dating prefer-
ence”) tended to override the effects of religious
information (cf. Williams et al., 2016). In Experiment 3,
we attempted to generalize these results, finding that
perceived reproductive strategy statistically mediated
trust toward both Christian and Muslim targets in a pro-
fessional domain. These results suggest that perceivers
utilize religion as an LH cue and trust religious people
more because of the (slow) LH strategy they are assumed
to adopt.
Experiment 1
Experiment 1 had two aims: to examine whether per-
ceptions of religious targets might accurately be catego-
rized as slow LH perceptions and, if so, whether these
perceptions might influence trust.
Participants. We conducted a pilot study to estimate
the effect of religious information on perceived LH traits.
Given this effect size, we determined we would need 196
participants to detect our effect. As our resources allowed,
our final sample exceeded this target. A total of 336 (195
female) workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk)
located in the United States received $0.25 each to com-
plete a survey on “social perceptions.” Participants who
had taken part in the pilot study were not able to partici-
pate. Participants’ ages ranged from 19 to 71, with a median
of 33 (M = 36.25, SD = 12.73). Forty-five additional par-
ticipants were excluded from the original sample of 381
Religion, Life History, and Trust 949
because they failed at least one of two attention checks—
either answering a question that they were instructed to
skip or failing a multiple-choice question that simply
instructed participants to click “2.” (In the former case,
participants could not unclick the question buttons to
refrain from answering questions, so those who realized
this error and later acknowledged it in their comments to
researchers at the end of the experiment were treated as
passing this check.)
Procedure and measures. Participants completed a
three-item religiosity scale (1 = not at all, 7 = deeply or
extremely; e.g., “How strongly do you believe in God?”
α = .95) based on the work of Cohen, Malka, Rozin, and
Cherfas (2006). They also responded to two additional
measures included for a separate research question: the
attitude facet subscale of the revised Sociosexual Orienta-
tion Inventory (SOI-R; e.g., “Sex without love is okay,
α = .76) on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 9 (strongly agree)
scale (Penke & Asendorpf, 2008), and five items assessing
self-perceived mate value (e.g., “Members of the opposite
sex are attracted to me,” α = .88) on a 1 (strongly dis-
agree) to 7 (strongly agree) scale (Landolt, Lalumière, &
Quinsey, 1995).
Adapting the methodology of Hall et al. (2015), we
randomly assigned participants to view one of four
fictitious dating profiles, varying in target sex (male or
female) and target religion (“Devoted Christian” vs.
“Nonreligious”). After viewing the target dating profile,
participants answered questions about their perceptions
of the target on several dimensions (in random order),
using a 7-point scale (1 = extremely unlikely, 7 =
extremely likely). Finally, participants entered demo-
graphic information, including age, gender, sexual ori-
entation, and religious affiliation.
We computed scores for five separate (perceived)
LH variables: reproductive strategy (seven items; e.g.,
“Faithful romantic partner,α = .90), non-aggression
(three items; e.g., “Physically aggressive,” reverse coded,
α = .86), nonimpulsivity (two items; e.g., “Impulsive,
reverse coded, r = .32, p < .001), education (two items;
e.g., “Invested in his/her education,” r = .78, p < .001),
and hopeful ecology (single item, “comes from a rough
neighborhood,” reverse coded). We also included one
item in which we expected religious targets to be
viewed as “fast”—how likely they are to want several
children (Rowthorn, 2011). Finally, we assessed per-
ceived mate value (four items; e.g., “Gets a lot of
attention from women/men,α = .90) and trust (single
Are religious targets viewed as slow strategists?. We
compared perceptions of religious and nonreligious targets
in each LH domain (i.e., reproductive strategy, aggression,
impulsivity, education, and ecology) as well as mate value
and trust (see Fig. 1). We were interested in target sex and
participant sex only to the extent that they might moder-
ate the hypothesized main effect of religion on perceived
Reproductive Strategy Nonaggression Nonimpulsivity Education Hopeful Ecology Mate Value Trust
Participant Rating
Perceived Life-History Traits, Mate Value, and Trust
Religious Target Nonreligious Target
Fig. 1. Results from Experiment 1: mean life-history inferences, estimated mate value, and trust as a function of target religious claims.
Error bars represent ±1 SE.
950 Moon et al.
LH traits. Because we failed to find evidence that either
target or participant sex moderated the effect, we report
the results of independent-samples t tests comparing reli-
gious and nonreligious targets (see Table 1). For analyses
including these variables, see Supplemental Analyses in
the Supplemental Material.
As predicted, religious (vs. nonreligious) targets were
judged more likely to follow a committed reproductive
strategy, less impulsive, less aggressive, more educated,
and originating from more hopeful ecologies (i.e., less
likely to come from a “rough neighborhood”). Consis-
tent with past research, religious targets were also
trusted significantly more than nonreligious targets.
Importantly, religious targets were not favored univer-
sally, as they were judged similarly in mate value. We
consider this to imply that effects of target religion on
perceived LH traits are not due to an overall halo effect.
Do LH intuitions mediate effects on trust?. We per-
formed a parallel multiple mediation analysis (Hayes,
2013) in which we tested whether the effect portraying a
target person as religious had on participant ratings of
trust was significantly mediated by perceived LH traits. We
used 5,000 bootstrapped iterations to compute a bias-cor-
rected 95% confidence interval (CI) for the indirect effects.
As shown in Figure 2, the effect of target religion
on trust was significantly mediated by perceived repro-
ductive strategy, b = 0.36, SE = 0.09, 95% CI = [0.19,
0.55], as well as perceived education, b = 0.09, SE =
0.05, 95% CI = [0.03, 0.21]. Other indirect effects were
not significant, nor was the direct effect, b = 0.07,
SE = 0.11, p > .250. This analysis suggests that religious
individuals are viewed as trustworthy in part because
they are slow LH strategists, and perceived reproduc-
tive strategy seems to be a particularly strong determi-
nant of trust.
Does participant religiosity moderate the effect of
target religion on trust?. Although religious targets
were trusted more than nonreligious targets, one possi-
bility is that this effect was driven solely by religious par-
ticipants. Thus, we tested whether participants’ self-
reported religiosity moderated the effect of target religion
on trust. We regressed target religion (dummy coded),
participant religiosity (centered), and their interaction on
trust. While religiosity had no main effect (p > .250), there
was a main effect of target religion, t(332) = 10.82, p <
.001, b = 1.11, 95% CI = [0.91, 1.32], qualified by a signifi-
cant interaction between target religion and religiosity,
t(332) = 2.92, p = .004, b = 0.17, 95% CI = [0.05, 0.28].
Simple-slopes analyses suggested that the effect was stron-
gest for participants high in religiosity, t(332) = 5.91, p <
.001, b = 0.96, 95% CI = [0.64, 1.28], but remained margin-
ally significant for those low in religiosity, t(332) = 1.78,
p = .076, b = 0.29, 95% CI = [−0.03, 0.61]. That is, even
participants low in religiosity (1.38 on a 1–7 scale) tended
to trust the religious target more than the target who
ostensibly shares their beliefs. This finding is consistent
with recent research suggesting that nonreligious indi-
viduals associate atheism with immorality, albeit to a
lesser extent than more religious individuals (Gervais et
al., 2017).
We additionally used Model 59 of PROCESS (which
allows the moderator to interact with all three paths in
the model; Hayes, 2013) to test whether the indirect
effect of target religion on trust (via perceived repro-
ductive strategy) held at varying levels (±1 SD) of par-
ticipant religiosity. We were specifically interested in
whether this effect held for participants low in religios-
ity. The indirect effect was stronger among more reli-
gious participants, but remained significant at all levels
of participant religiosity: low, b = 0.46, SE = 0.11, 95%
CI = [0.28, 0.71]; average, b = 0.63, SE = 0.08, 95% CI =
Table 1. Effects of Target Religion on Perceived Life-History Traits, Mate Value, and Trust in Experiment 1
Religious target
(n = 166)
target (n = 170)
t(334) p
95% CI for
the difference
Cohen’s dMeasure M SD M SD
Reproductive strategy 5.45 1.01 4.33 0.92 10.66 < .001 [0.91, 1.33] 1.16
Nonimpulsivity 4.94 1.06 4.25 1.05 5.96 < .001 [0.46, 0.91] 0.65
Nonaggression 5.60 1.14 5.16 1.19 3.49 < .001 [0.19, 0.69] 0.38
Education 5.39 1.00 5.03 1.20 2.98 .003 [0.12, 0.60] 0.33
Hopeful ecology 5.72 1.21 5.34 1.32 2.76 .006 [0.11, 0.65] 0.30
Mate value 5.37 1.07 5.35 1.14 0.15 .885 [–0.22, 0.25] 0.02
Trust 5.31 1.04 4.68 1.10 5.42 < .001 [0.40, 0.86] 0.59
Note: Each row represents the results of an independent-samples t test comparing perceptions of religious and nonreligious targets.
CI = confidence interval.
Religion, Life History, and Trust 951
[0.48, 0.82]; and high, b = 0.78, SE = 0.13, 95%
CI = [0.54, 1.05]. The direct effect was not significant at
any level of religiosity (p > .246).
Experiment 2
Experiment 1 demonstrated that religious targets are
viewed as slow LH strategists and are more trusted, and
a mediation analysis suggested that religious people
are more trusted because of their perceived slow LH
strategy (especially their reproductive strategy). We rea-
soned that, if perceivers view religious targets as trust-
worthy primarily because they also view them as
committed reproductive strategists, providing direct
information about their committed reproductive strate-
gies may “override” the effects of religious claims (for
a similar design, see Williams et al., 2016). That is, we
hypothesized that perceivers would base their ratings
primarily on direct LH information (i.e., a target’s repro-
ductive strategy) rather than a cue (religion) that imper-
fectly predicts LH information. To test this hypothesis,
we utilized a concurrent double randomization design,
independently manipulating both targets’ religious
claims as well as their reproductive strategies. This
design allowed us to test the causal effect of the pro-
posed mediator (perceived reproductive strategy) on
trust (Pirlott & MacKinnon, 2016). Additionally, we mea-
sured perceptions that the target believed in divine
punishment (“big gods”), to see if effects of LH strategy
on trust would operate over and above the potential
effect of the target’s perceived belief in big gods.
Participants. We sought to obtain at least 100 partici-
pants per cell for a 2 × 2 design, allowing for potential
exclusions based on attention checks. Thus, we recruited
445 participants (203 female, 2 not reported) via TurkPrime
(Litman, Robinson, & Abberbock, 2017) to complete a sur-
vey about “impressions of others” in exchange for $0.50.
Ages ranged from 19 to 72, with a median age of 33 (M =
35.12, SD = 10.37). Participants were restricted to the
United States, and we restricted availability to those who
had not participated in Experiment 1 or our pilot study.
We also excluded an additional 30 participants who
failed at least one of two attention checks instructing
them to select “6” to demonstrate that they were paying
attention; these participants were excluded from all anal-
yses, including the descriptive results above.
Procedure and measures. The procedure was similar
to that used in Experiment 1. Participants first responded
to an eight-item measure of religiosity (based on Cohen
et al., 2006) using a 7-point scale (1 = not at all, 7 = deeply
or extremely; e.g., “How religious are you?” α = .97), the
SOI-R attitude facet (α = .85), and a measure of belief in
Reproductive Strategy
b = 0.36, SE = 0.09
95% CI = [0.19, 0.55]
Target Religion Trust
b = 0.04, SE = 0.03
95% CI = [−0.01, 0.11]
b = 0.06, SE = 0.05
95% CI = [−0.02, 0.16]
b = 0.09, SE = 0.05
95% CI = [0.03, 0.21 ]
Hopeful Ecology
b = 0.01, SE = 0.02
95% CI = [−0.03, 0.06]
b = 0.69, p < .001
b = 0.44, p < .001
b = 0.38, p = .006
b = 0.36, p = .003
b = 1.12, p < .001
b = 0.09, p = .112
b = 0.09, p = .068
b = 0.02, p = .591
b = 0.26, p < .001
b = 0.32, p < .001
Fig. 2. Parallel multiple mediation model depicting the effect of target religion on trust as mediated by perceived life-history traits in Experi-
ment 1. The variable for target religious claims was dummy coded (0 = nonreligious, 1 = religious). CI = confidence interval.
952 Moon et al.
“big gods” on a seven-point scale (1 = strongly disagree,
7 = strongly agree; e.g., “I believe God punishes people
for immoral behavior,α = .96) based on the “big god”
beliefs posited by Norenzayan et al. (2016).
Next, participants randomly viewed a social media
style profile varying in sex (male or female), religious
claims (“Devout Christian” or “Nonreligious”), and “dat-
ing preferences” (“I don’t see myself settling down any
time soon, I enjoy playing the field and meeting a lot
of new people” or “My goal is to find that special some-
one, settle down, and start a family”). Distractor infor-
mation was identical for all conditions.
After viewing the profile, participants indicated how
likely they thought it was that several traits or behaviors
applied to the target, using a Likert-type scale (1 =
extremely unlikely, 7 = extremely likely). We assessed
the following LH perceptions: reproductive strategy
(same scale as Experiment 1, α = .94); nonimpulsivity
(seven-item scale; for example “Acts impulsively,
reverse coded, α = .93), nonopportunistic behavior
(three-item measure; e.g., “Physically aggressive,”
reverse coded, α = .92), hopeful ecology (three-item
scale; e.g., “Came from a rough neighborhood, reverse
coded, α = .82), and education (two-item measure; e.g.,
“Invested in his/her education,r = .82, p < .001). We
also assessed how much targets were perceived to
believe in big gods (using the same beliefs as the par-
ticipant measure, but directed at the target; α = .98)
and trust (six-item measure adapted from Hall et al.,
2015; e.g., “Is trustworthy,α = .93), and four distractor
items unrelated to LH strategy (i.e., athletic, stylish,
annoying, and reserved).
Collapsing across participant and target sex,2 analyses con-
sisted of a series of 2 (target religion) × 2 (target reproduc-
tive strategy) analyses of variance (ANOVAs)—one for each
outcome measured (see Table 2 and Fig. 3). Measures of
perceived reproductive strategy and belief in moralizing
gods suggest that the manipulations had significant effects:
committed strategists (vs. uncommitted strategists) were
in fact judged more likely to be committed strategists, F(1,
441) = 592.66, p < .001, ηp2 = .573, and so were religious
(vs. nonreligious) targets, F(1, 441) = 22.13, p < .001,
ηp2 = .048. Religious (vs. nonreligious) targets were viewed
as significantly more likely to believe in big gods, F(1, 439) =
589.21, p < .001, ηp2 = .573, and so were committed (vs.
uncommitted) strategists, F(1, 439) = 25.89, p < .001, ηp2 =
There was a main effect of target religion on per-
ceived impulsivity: Religious targets were judged to be
somewhat less impulsive than nonreligious targets. How-
ever, target reproductive strategy had a considerably
stronger effect: Committed strategists were viewed as
significantly less impulsive than uncommitted strategists.
Further, there were significant main effects of target strat-
egy (but not target religion): Committed (vs. uncommit-
ted) strategists were viewed as “slower” in several
ways—less likely to exhibit opportunistic behavior, more
likely to come from an abundant or predictable ecology,
and more likely to be educated and invested in educa-
tion. Finally, religious targets were viewed as marginally
more trustworthy than nonreligious targets (ηp2 = .008),
but target reproductive strategy had a markedly stronger
effect, with committed strategists being rated as signifi-
cantly more trustworthy (ηp2 = .197).
Do belief in big gods or LH traits mediate the effect
of committed reproductive strategies on trust?. One
possibility is that, although ratings of trust seem to track
reproductive strategy rather than religion, perceivers
assume that committed strategists are more likely to
believe in God or gods. Gervais and colleagues (2017)
found, for instance, that a priest who molested children
was rated likely to be an atheist. Indeed, our analysis did
Table 2. Effects of Target Religion and Target Reproductive Strategy on Perceived Life-History
Traits and Trust in Experiment 2
Target religion
Target reproductive
Outcome df F ηp2p F ηp2p
Nonimpulsivity 1, 441 16.37 .036 < .001 323.72 .423 < .001
Nonopportunistic behavior 1, 441 2.63 .006 .106 24.31 .052 < .001
Hopeful ecology 1, 441 3.29 .007 .070 7.04 .016 .008
Education 1, 441 0.06 .000 .814 62.02 .123 < .001
Trust 1, 440 3.69 .008 .055 108.15 .197 < .001
Note: Each row represents the results of a 2 (target religion) × 2 (target reproductive strategy) analysis of
variance with the outcome as a dependent variable. The tests reported represent the main effect of each factor,
respectively. Degrees of freedom apply to both main effects. The Target Religion × Target Reproductive Strategy
interaction was not significant for any of the outcomes measured (p > .102).
Religion, Life History, and Trust 953
indicate that committed strategists were judged some-
what more likely to believe in big gods. To test whether
this might explain the effect on trust, we conducted a
mediation analysis to examine whether the main effect of
target reproductive strategy on trust could be explained
partially by their perceived greater belief in big gods.
This analysis used the same approach to mediation as
Experiment 1.
With perceived belief in big gods as the only media-
tor (i.e., reproductive strategy big god beliefs
trust), the indirect effect was significant, b = 0.05, SE =
0.02, 95% CI = [0.01, 0.11], suggesting significant media-
tion. The direct effect of reproductive strategy was still
significant, b = 0.96, SE = 0.10, 95% CI = [0.77, 1.16].
To examine whether other LH traits (e.g., impulsivity,
opportunistic behavior) might mediate the effect, we
conducted a multiple mediation analysis to estimate the
effect of reproductive strategy on trust with the follow-
ing mediators: perceived big god beliefs, nonimpulsiv-
ity, nonopportunistic behavior, education, and hopeful
ecology (see Fig. 4). In this model, perceived big god
beliefs did not significantly mediate the effect, b =
0.004, SE = 0.09, 95% CI = [−0.01, 0.03]. However, three
of the four LH variables significantly mediated the effect
of reproductive strategy on trust: nonimpulsivity, b =
0.59, SE = 0.09, 95% CI = [0.43, 0.79]; nonopportunistic
behavior, b = 0.09, SE = 0.03, 95% CI = [0.04, 0.17]; and
education, b = 0.28, SE = 0.05, 95% CI = [0.19, 0.39],
but not hopeful ecology, b = −0.008, SE = 0.01, 95%
CI = [−0.03, 0.01]. The direct effect was not significant
in this model, b = 0.05, SE = 0.09, 95% CI = [−0.13, 0.23].
Does participant religiosity moderate the observed
effect?. We again tested whether participant religiosity
might qualify the observed effects. We regressed target
religion (contrast coded: −0.5 = nonreligious, 0.5 = reli-
gious), target strategy (contrast coded: −0.5 = uncommit-
ted, 0.5 = committed), participant religiosity (centered),
and their interactions on our trust measure. In this model,
there was a significant effect of target religion, t(436) =
2.45, p = .015, b = 0.25, 95% CI = [0.05, 0.44], and a main
effect of target strategy, t(436) = 10.32, p < .001, b = 1.03,
95% CI = [0.83, 1.23]; religious (vs. nonreligious) targets
were trusted more, and committed (vs. uncommitted) tar-
gets were trusted more. There was one significant inter-
action (all other ps > .250) between target strategy and
participant religiosity, t(436) = 3.73, p < .001, b = 0.20,
95% CI = [0.09, 0.30]; more religious participants tended
to rate the committed (vs. uncommitted) strategists as
especially trustworthy. Probing the interaction at low (−1
SD) and high (+1 SD) values of participant religiosity
revealed that participants low in religiosity tended to
trust the committed targets more than the uncommitted
targets, t(436) = 4.65, p < .001, b = 0.66, 95% CI = [0.38,
0.93], and that participants high in religiosity also trusted
the committed targets more than the uncommitted targets
and did so to a greater extent, t(436) = 9.86, p < .001, b =
1.40, 95% CI = [1.13, 1.68]. This finding is consistent with
Nonimpulsivity Nonopportunistic
Education Hopeful Ecology Trust
Participant Rating
Perceived Life-History Traits and Trust
Nonreligious/Uncommitted Religious/Uncommitted Nonreligious/Committed Religious/Committed
Fig. 3. Results from Experiment 2: mean life-history inferences and trust as a function of the target’s religious claims and reproduc-
tive strategy. Error bars represent ±1 SE.
954 Moon et al.
our claim that reproductive strategy largely overrides the
heuristic value of religion.
Experiment 3
Experiments 1 and 2 operationalized the target person’s
religion as Christianity; however, other researchers
(Gervais et al., 2011; Hall et al., 2015) have demon-
strated that both Christian and Muslim targets are
trusted more than nonreligious targets. In Experiment
3, we tested whether perceived reproductive strategies
mediate trust toward both Christian and Muslim targets.
Further, whereas Experiment 1 used dating profiles and
Experiment 2 used social media profiles, we sought to
generalize our results to a professional context.
Participants. Given the smaller effect sizes found in
Experiment 1, we estimated that we would need at least
301 participants for adequate (.80) power. In total, 392
(210 female) participants received $0.50 to complete a
survey on person perception via TurkPrime, again
excluding past participants. Participant ages ranged from
18 to 77, with a median of 32 (M = 34.89, SD = 11.11). We
excluded 20 additional participants from the original
sample of 412 because they failed one or more attention
checks of the same kind used in Experiment 2.
Procedure and measures. Participants completed the
same measures as in Experiment 2: religiosity (α = .96),
SOI-R attitude facet (α = .83), and big god beliefs (α =
.96). They then viewed a randomly assigned profile from
a “business- and employment-oriented social networking
website.” Each profile was a young male listed as an
accountant; under the “What to know about me” section,
he self-identified either as a devoted Christian who
attends church regularly, a devoted Muslim who attends
mosque regularly, or a nonreligious person who does not
follow any particular religion. Other distractor informa-
tion was included and held constant across profiles. To
avoid priming mating, we neither included any informa-
tion about nor explicitly manipulated target reproductive
After viewing the profile, participants responded to
the same series of perceived LH measures used in
Experiment 2, again on a 1 (extremely unlikely) to 7
(extremely likely) scale: reproductive strategy (α = .91),
nonimpulsivity (α = .86), nonopportunistic behavior
(α = .94), education (r = .78, p < .001), and hopeful
ecology (α = .76). Participants responded to five face-
valid “accountancy trust” items (e.g., “You would trust
him with your bank account information,α = .89). Next,
to measure general trust, they responded to the six-item
trust measure used in Experiment 2 (Hall et al., 2015),
which we combined with Cottrell, Neuberg, and Li’s
(2007) established trust measure (e.g., “Honest,α = .95).
b = 0.09, SE = 0.03
95% CI = [0.04, 0.17]
Reproductive Strategy Trust
Big Gods
b = 0.004, SE = 0.03
95% CI = [−0.01, 0.11]
b = 0.59, SE = 0.09
95% CI = [0.43, 0.79]
b = 0.28, SE = 0.05
95% CI = [0.19, 0.39]
Hopeful Ecology
b = −0.01, SE = 0.01
95% CI = [−0.04, 0.01]
b = 1.74, p < .001
b = 0.55, p = .007
b = 0.28, p = .011
b = 0.84, p < .001
b = 0.55, p < .001
b = 0.34, p < .001
b = 0.01, p = .640
b = 0.34, p < .001
b = 0.17, p < .001
b = –0.03, p = .415
Fig. 4. Parallel multiple mediation model depicting the effect of target reproductive strategy on trust as mediated by perceived life-history
traits and perceived big god beliefs in Experiment 2. The variable for target reproductive strategy was dummy coded (0 = uncommitted, 1 =
committed). CI = confidence interval.
Religion, Life History, and Trust 955
We used the same measure of the target’s perceived belief
in big gods (α = .98) and distractor items as Experiment 2.
As shown in Table 3, target religion had a significant
main effect on general trust, p < .001. Pairwise com-
parisons revealed that both the Christian (p < .001) and
the Muslim (p = .043) targets were judged more trust-
worthy than the nonreligious target. Although the pat-
tern of means was similar in the exploratory accountancy
trust scale (see Fig. 5), the main effect of target religion
was not significant (p > .250), and there were no sig-
nificant pairwise differences (p > .148).
The patterns for other LH variables were similar to
Experiment 1, with some slight exceptions. First, the
Muslim and nonreligious targets were rated similarly
on nonopportunistic behavior and ecology (possibly
because of the inferred racial dimension of being Mus-
lim). Second, target religion had no main effect on
perceived education (p > .250), perhaps because the
target identified himself as an accountant, leaving less
ambiguity. Most importantly, the Christian and Muslim
targets were both rated as more committed reproductive
strategists than the nonreligious target (p < .001).
Do LH perceptions mediate the effect on trust?. Fol-
lowing Hayes and Preacher (2014), we used 5,000 boot-
strapped iterations to compute a bias-corrected 95% CI
for the indirect effects, using two dummy-coded variables
to represent the effect for the Christian condition (nonre-
ligious = 0, christian = 1, Muslim = 0) and the Muslim
condition (nonreligious = 0, Christian = 0, Muslim = 1).
Consistent with Experiment 1, perceived reproduc-
tive strategy arose as a significant mediator of general
trust for both Christian and Muslim targets (see Fig. 6).
Nonimpulsivity was also a significant mediator for both
targets, and nonopportunistic behavior was a significant
mediator for the Christian target only. The direct effect
was not significant for the Christian target, b = −0.10,
SE = 0.09, 95% CI = [−0.27, 0.08], or for the Muslim
target, b = −0.15, SE = 0.09, 95% CI = [−0.32, 0.02].
Using the accountancy trust scale yielded similar
results; reproductive strategy was a significant mediator
for both the Christian, b = 0.34, SE = 0.10, 95% CI =
[0.15, 0.56], and the Muslim target, b = 0.27, SE = 0.08,
95% CI = [0.12, 0.45]. Nonimpulsivity also mediated the
effect for the Christian, b = 0.17, SE = 0.06, 95% CI =
[0.07, 0.31], and the Muslim target, b = 0.11, SE = 0.05,
95% CI = [0.04, 0.23]. Other indirect effects (non-
opportunistic behavior, education, and ecology) were not
significant. The direct effects were slightly, but signifi-
cantly, negative for both the Christian, b = −0.38, SE =
0.15, 95% CI = [−0.68, −0.08], and the Muslim target, b =
0.30, SE = 0.15, 95% CI = [−0.59, −0.02].
Table 3. Effects of Target Religion on Perceived Life-History Traits and Trust in Experiment 3
target (n = 131)
Christian target
(n = 130)
Muslim target
(n = 131)
Outcome M SD M SD M SD F(2, 389) pη2
Reproductive strategy 4.33a0.85 5.58c0.97 5.31b1.11 58.83 < .001 .230
Nonimpulsivity 4.59a0.99 5.23b0.90 5.02b0.99 15.01 < .001 .072
Nonopportunistic 5.34a1.31 5.82b1.23 5.35a1.36 5.79 .003 .029
Education 5.53a0.98 5.70a1.17 5.72a1.17 1.24 .291 .006
Hopeful ecology 4.81ab 1.04 5.04b1.10 4.61a0.99 5.53 .004 .028
General trust 4.91a0.93 5.44c1.03 5.16b1.04 8.94 < .001 .044
Accountancy trust 4.66a1.32 4.90a1.30 4.78a1.39 1.04 .353 .005
Note: Each row represents the main effect of a one-way analysis of variance comparing perceptions of nonreligious, Christian, and
Muslim targets. Means with different subscripts are significantly different from each other (p < .05).
General Trust Accountancy Trust
Participant Rating
Trust Measure
Nonreligious Christian Muslim
Fig. 5. Results from Experiment 3: mean trust rating as a function
of target religion. Error bars represent ±1 SE.
Reproductive Strategy
bC = 0.35, SE = 0.08
95% CI = [0.22, 0.52]
bM = 0.28, SE = 0.06
95% CI = [0.17, 0.42]
Target Religion General Trust
bC = 0.13, SE = 0.04
95% CI = [0.06, 0.23]
bM = 0.09, SE = 0.04
95% CI = [0.03, 0.18]
bC = 0.10, SE = 0.04
95% CI = 0.03, 0.19]
bM = 0.002, SE = 0.03
95% CI = [−0.07, 0.07]
bC = 0.03, SE = 0.03
95% CI = [−0.01, 0.10]
bM = 0.04, SE = 0.03
95% CI = [−0.01, 0.10]
Hopeful Ecology
bC = 0.01, SE = 0.01
95% CI = [−0.01, 0.05]
bM = −0.01, SE = 0.01
95% CI = [−0.04, 0.01]
bC = 0.64, p < .001
bM = 0.43, p < .001
bC = 0.48, p = .003
bM = 0.01, p = .960
bC = 1.25, p < .001
bM = 0.98, p < .001
bC = 0.18, p = .197
bM = 0.19, p = .155
bC = 0.22, p = .084
bM = −0.21, p = .111
b = 0.20, p < .001
b = 0.20, p < .001
b = 0.28, p < .001
b = 0.19, p < .001
b = 0.03, p = .278
Fig. 6. Parallel multiple mediation model depicting the effect of target religion on general trust as mediated by perceived life-history traits in Experiment 3. Where
there are two coefficients, bC shows results for the Christian condition, and bM shows results for the Muslim target, relative to the nonreligious condition. CI = confi-
dence interval.
Religion, Life History, and Trust 957
Does participant religiosity moderate the effect?. We
again tested whether participant religiosity moderated
the effect of target religion on trust. Using the general
trust scale and the same dummy-coded variables, the
Christian target was trusted significantly more than the
nonreligious target, t(386) = 4.15, p < .001, b = 0.51, 95%
CI = [0.27, 0.75], and the Muslim target was trusted mar-
ginally more, t(386) = 1.89, p = .059, b = 0.23, 95% CI =
[−0.01, 0.47]. Participant religiosity significantly moder-
ated the effect toward the Christian target, t(386) = 3.45,
p = .001, b = 0.22, 95% CI = [0.09, 0.34], but not toward
the Muslim target (p > .250). Simple-slopes analyses
revealed that participants high in religiosity were more
trusting toward the Christian target, t(386) = 5.53, p <
.001, b = 0.93, 95% CI = [0.60, 1.26], but the effect was not
significant for participants low in religiosity (p > .250).
Using the accountancy trust scale, neither the Chris-
tian (p = .190) nor the Muslim (p > .250) target were
rated more trustworthy than the nonreligious target.
However, religiosity again moderated the effect for the
Christian target, t(386) = 3.79, p < .001, b = 0.32, 95%
CI = [0.15, 0.49]. Simple-slopes analyses revealed that,
among participants high in religiosity, the Christian tar-
get was rated as a more trustworthy accountant than
the nonreligious target, t(386) = 3.72, p < .001, b = 0.83,
95% CI = [0.39, 1.28]. However, among participants low
in religiosity, the Christian target was judged to be a
marginally less trustworthy accountant than the nonre-
ligious target, t(386) = −1.72, p = .086, b = −0.41, 95%
CI = [−0.87, 0.06].
As in Experiment 1, we again used Model 59 of
PROCESS (Hayes, 2013) to test whether the indirect
effect of target religion on general trust (via perceived
reproductive strategy) held across levels (±1 SD) of
participant religiosity, and specifically whether this
effect held even for those participants low in religiosity.
We computed two separate analyses comparing the
nonreligious target to the Christian and to the Muslim,
respectively. For the Christian target, the mediation
effect was significant at the low, b = 0.76, SE = 0.13,
95% CI = [0.52, 1.05]; average, b = 0.81, SE = 0.10, 95%
CI = [0.63, 1.02]; and high, b = 0.77, SE = 0.17, 95%
CI = [0.47, 1.16], levels of religiosity. The direct effect
was significantly negative at the low, b = −0.68, SE =
0.15, 95% CI = [−0.98, −0.38]; and average, b = −0.23,
SE = 0.11, 95% CI = [−0.46, −0.01] levels of religiosity,
but not at high religiosity (b = 0.22, p = .223).
For the Muslim target, the indirect effect was also
significant at the low, b = 0.54, SE = 0.12, 95% CI =
[0.32, 0.79]; average, b = 0.61, SE = 0.08, 95% CI = [0.45,
0.80]; and high, b = 0.66, SE = 0.14, 95% CI = [0.42,
0.99], levels of religiosity. The direct effect was again
significantly negative at the low, b = −0.37, SE = 0.15,
95% CI = [−0.67, −0.08]; average, b = −0.37, SE = 0.11,
95% CI = [−0.58, −0.16]; and high, b = −0.36, SE = 0.16,
95% CI = [−0.68, −0.05], levels of religiosity.
General Discussion
We investigated whether religious targets are viewed
as slow LH strategists and, if so, whether this may
explain effects of religious claims on trust. Experiment
1 demonstrated that religious targets (compared with
nonreligious targets) were rated as “slower” across LH
domains, but were not judged to be more appealing
mates (i.e., it was not a universal “halo” effect). They
were also rated as more trustworthy, and the effect of
target religion on trust was statistically mediated by
perceived reproductive strategy. Experiment 3 showed
that this mediation holds for both Christian and Muslim
targets in a professional domain.
Experiment 2 independently manipulated both the
religion and reproductive strategy of targets to test
whether “direct” LH information might take precedence
over religion in influencing ratings of trust. When par-
ticipants were given targets’ reproductive strategies, the
same religious manipulation used in Experiment 1,
which had a significant effect, became markedly less
important, and target religion had only a marginally
significant effect on trust.
Past research has posited that religious individuals
are trusted in part because they believe they are being
watched by a morally concerned god (Gervais et al.,
2011). Here, we tested a novel explanation for the
robust finding that religious targets tend to be trusted
more than nonreligious targets. Whereas these two
explanations are not mutually exclusive, our data sug-
gest the effects of LH intuitions operate above and
beyond shared beliefs in monitoring gods to cultivate
trust. Consistent with the findings of Hall and col-
leagues (2015), our data suggest that perceivers are
perhaps less concerned with targets’ specific beliefs,
and more interested in the likely behavior they can infer
from religious information. Because religion is not the
only behavior cue (and may not even be the strongest),
the presence of other information may diminish the
effect of religion or, in some cases, override it.
Indeed, our results suggest that simply knowing
someone’s reproductive strategy was sufficient to dimin-
ish drastically the effect of religion. Given the relative
consistency of trust ratings based on religious informa-
tion (both in our data and in past research), it is striking
that any single piece of additional information might
diminish or override this phenomenon. This finding
may present a hopeful picture for anti-atheist bias in
interpersonal contexts. Cottrell and Neuberg (2005)
958 Moon et al.
proposed that prejudices toward different groups are
rooted in the specific threats they are perceived to pose.
Individuals often act in ways to counteract specific prej-
udices—Black men might whistle classical music to self-
present as nonthreatening, and obese individuals might
practice excellent hygiene to avoid being seen as a dis-
ease threat (Neel, Neufeld, & Neuberg, 2013). One simple
way for nonreligious individuals to counteract prejudice,
then, might be to present themselves as family oriented
or invested in monogamous relationships.
Viewing religion as an LH cue may further lead to
nuanced hypotheses about when religious individuals
might not be favored. Given the specific traits that reli-
gion seems to cue, it may be possible to find instances
in which the same religious individuals are viewed posi-
tively (e.g., trustworthy) on one hand, but negatively
(e.g., closed-minded) on the other. Further, whether an
individual views religion favorably or not may depend
on his or her current motives (Cohen & Moon, 2017).
Some researchers have provocatively claimed that
religiosity is essentially a reflection of mating or LH
strategies (Weeden et al., 2008); in this view, religion
is motivated mainly by restricted and monogamous
sexual strategies. In our view, religion is a complex
and nuanced phenomenon that cannot be reduced to
any single motive. Nonetheless, our data suggest that
perceivers may use religion heuristically to infer com-
mitted reproductive strategies and a suite of slow LH
traits. These traits may, in turn, influence perceptions
of trust.
Action Editor
James K. McNulty served as action editor for this article.
Author Contributions
All authors developed the study concept and experimental
design. J. W. Moon collected the data. J. W. Moon analyzed
the data and drafted the manuscript with significant input and
revisions by J. A. Krems and A. B. Cohen.
Jordan W. Moon
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared that there were no conflicts of interest
with respect to the authorship or the publication of this
This research was supported by the Air Force Office of Sci-
entific Research (Grant No. FA9550-15-1-0008) and a Psi Chi
graduate research grant awarded to J. W. Moon.
Supplemental Material
Additional supporting information can be found at http://
Open Practices
All data and materials have been made publicly available via
the Open Science Framework and can be accessed at https://
The experiments were not preregistered. The complete Open
Practices Disclosure for this article can be found at http://jour This
article has received badges for Open Data and Open Materials.
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1. We use the term “committed reproductive strategy” to denote
the restricted sexual lifestyles associated with religion, and we
view it as a crucial component of a slow LH strategy. However,
slow LH strategists tend to have fewer offspring, whereas reli-
gious individuals tend to have significantly higher fertility rates
than nonreligious individuals (Rowthorn, 2011). We view this
inconsistency as the result of cultural evolution (i.e., religions
that promoted fecundity were more likely to spread; Richerson
& Boyd, 2005; Rowthorn, 2011) and maintain that the psychol-
ogy of these “committed strategists” is fundamentally “slow.”
We view investment in offspring (or quality) as more indicative
of LH strategy than quantity of offspring (Ellis et al., 2009).
For further discussion on fundamental LH trade-offs, see Del
Giudice, Gangestad, and Kaplan (2015).
2. Although we were primarily interested in the effects of tar-
get religion and target reproductive strategy, we manipulated
target sex to be consistent with Experiment 1. Results of the
2 (target sex) × 2 (target religion) × 2 (target reproductive
strategy) for each outcome are reported in the Supplemental
Analyses in the Supplemental Material. The results do not alter
the conclusions.
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... Religiosity is a multifaceted construct, which may include aspects of what religious teachings one believes and how central those religious teachings are in their life (Koenig et al., 2015). Evidence shows that people higher in religiosity tend to harbor more antiatheist prejudice (Moon et al., 2018;Van Slyke, 2021). A second feature appears to be one's attitudes toward uncommitted mating (i.e., sociosexual attitudes; Penke & Asendorpf, 2008). ...
... A conventional understanding of anti-atheist prejudice suggests that religious persons are presumed to engage in cooperative and moral behaviors due to their belief in supervising divinities who punish moral infractions (Norenzayan & Shariff, 2008); as atheists do not believe they are being surveilled by morality policing deities, their disbelief is perceived as a cue of untrustworthiness (Gervais et al., 2011). A more recent understanding of anti-atheist prejudice suggests that atheists are presumed to adopt an uncommitted mating strategy, which engenders distrust of the group (Moon et al., 2018(Moon et al., , 2020. As an uncommitted mating strategy threatens the long-term fitness of the group (Mogilski et al., 2020), atheists are distrusted and, in turn, receive negative treatment (Moon et al., 2018(Moon et al., , 2020, albeit mainly in life domains that entail high degrees of trust for effective functioning (e.g., high-trust jobs vs. low-trust jobs; Gervais et al., 2011). ...
... A more recent understanding of anti-atheist prejudice suggests that atheists are presumed to adopt an uncommitted mating strategy, which engenders distrust of the group (Moon et al., 2018(Moon et al., , 2020. As an uncommitted mating strategy threatens the long-term fitness of the group (Mogilski et al., 2020), atheists are distrusted and, in turn, receive negative treatment (Moon et al., 2018(Moon et al., , 2020, albeit mainly in life domains that entail high degrees of trust for effective functioning (e.g., high-trust jobs vs. low-trust jobs; Gervais et al., 2011). Indeed, Americans are less likely to approve of their child marrying a person who identifies as atheist than as religious (Edgell et al., 2006(Edgell et al., , 2016. ...
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Recent research suggests presumptions about atheists’ uncommitted mating strategy causes atheists to seem less trustworthy, and that people who are more religious or espouse less agreeable attitudes toward uncommitted mating (i.e., more restricted sociosexual attitudes) tend to harbor greater anti-atheist attitudes. We provided additional tests of these ideas and addressed whether they could extend to discrimination against atheists in a “high-trust domain:” likelihood of granting approval to marry one’s adult child. An MTurk sample of U.S. parents (N = 301) self-reported their religiosity and sociosexual attitudes, then were randomly assigned to a condition wherein they read about their adult child’s fiancé who was either depicted as an atheist or devoted Christian. Participants reported their likelihood of approving of their child marrying the fiancé and estimated the fiancé’s committed mating strategy, trustworthiness, and dark personality characteristics. Participants with high religiosity presumed an atheist (vs. devoted Christian) fiancé endorsed a less committed mating strategy, which, apart from presumptions about the fiancé’s standing on dark personality characteristics, was associated with (a) perceiving the atheist as less trustworthy and (b) indicating less approval for their child marrying an atheist. Broadly, the research extends theorizing on how atheism relates to perceived threats to moral values and discrimination.
... In addition, the focal results were driven by gender equality in education and economic participation, but not political power or health/survival. These results could be consistent with the view of religion as a 'costly signal' to indicate qualities such as trustworthiness, dedication to one's family or even simply dedication to one's group [7,[37][38][39][62][63][64]; gender equality might also influence the payoffs of using religion as a costly signal. For instance, there is some evidence that women's economic dependence on men-which makes paternal certainty more critical-facilitates moralization of promiscuity [65]. ...
... For instance, there is some evidence that women's economic dependence on men-which makes paternal certainty more critical-facilitates moralization of promiscuity [65]. It follows, then, that women who are dependent on men (i.e. when gender equality is low) may prioritize signals of paternal investment and long-term commitment; this could, in turn, incentivise men in these societies to use religion as a signal of their willingness to invest in their offspring [7,39]. ...
... We suggest that this is unlikely, as people are extremely likely to prefer mates of similar religious backgrounds (i.e. religious homogamy), and probably do so in part because of inferences about their propensity for fidelity or interest in a highinvestment mating strategy[7,[37][38][39][40] Proc. R. Soc. ...
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Sex differences in religiosity are cross-culturally common and robust, yet it is unclear why sex differences in some cultures are larger than in others. Although women are more religious than men in most countries, religions frequently provide asymmetrical benefits to men at the expense of women. Two global analyses (51 countries and 74 countries) found that country-level gender equality was consistently and negatively associated with reli-giousness (i.e. religious attendance, reported importance of God and frequency of prayer) for men, more than for women, leading to a larger sex difference in religiousness in more gender-equal countries. Results were especially robust for religious attendance, and hold accounting for country-level wealth, as well as individuals' religious affiliation, the morali-zation of sexuality, age and education level. We interpret results through a rational choice lens, which assumes that people are more drawn to religion when it is consistent with their reproductive goals.
... Religious beliefs and practices can signal socially-relevant characteristics, such as ingroup dedication (Irons, 2001;Sosis & Alcorta, 2003) and a familyoriented lifestyle (Bulbulia et al., 2015;Slone, 2008). Several studies have documented that religious individuals are perceived as more trustworthy and cooperative than atheists (Edgell et al., 2006;Hall et al., 2015;McCullough et al., 2016;Tan & Vogel, 2008), and some analyses suggest that they are deemed more trustworthy because they are presumed to be faithful and long-term relationship-oriented (Moon et al., 2018). Hence, perceptions of partners' religiosity may interact with personal religious beliefs to modify the output of mate retention behaviors. ...
... The results of the moderated multiple regression analyses suggest the possibility that the perceived religiosity of romantic partners is used as a heuristic to estimate the likelihood of relationship defection, or perhaps the appropriateness of performing certain mate retention behaviors. Given that religiosity is perceived as an indicator of individuals' mating motives (Moon et al., 2018), romantic partners who are perceived as less religious may be simultaneously perceived as less committed to the relationship, resulting in increased benefit- Note: p < .05*, p < .01**, ...
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People frequently engage in mate retention behaviors to prevent a romantic partner's infidelity or relationship defection. Because many religions strongly emphasize commitment and fidelity in relationships, religious beliefs may facilitate mate retention behaviors. However, previous research has not investigated how perceptions of romantic partners' religious beliefs are related to religiosity and mate retention behavior. A sample of adults (n = 680) involved in long-term, committed relationships completed an online survey assessing self-reported religiosity, perceptions of partners' religiosity, and mate retention behaviors. Results indicated that self-reported religiosity is associated with cost-inflicting and benefit-provisioning behavior, and that the association between religiosity and benefit-provisioning mate retention depended on perceptions of partners' religiosity and participant sex. Specifically, religious individuals who perceived their partners as less religious performed more benefit-provisioning behaviors, and religious women performed more cost-inflicting behaviors when they perceived their partners as highly religious. These findings corroborate and extend upon previous cross-cultural research by contextualizing the link between religiosity and mate retention.
... First, across countries with Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and secular majorities (N > 3,200), religious people are perceived as less likely to commit uncooperative behaviors than nonreligious people (Gervais et al., 2017;Gervais, 2013Gervais, , 2014, and part of this effect may be due to religious people being perceived as regularly cultivating their self-control. Consistent with this possibility, experimental evidence indicates that religious people are perceived not only as more trustworthy, but also as more self-controlled (Moon et al., 2018), and that the perception that they are more self-controlled mediates the relationship between religiosity and greater perceived trustworthiness (Moon et al., 2018). Among religious people, those described as respecting rituals that require exercising self-control (e.g., abstaining from meat during Lent for Christians) are perceived as more trustworthy than religious people who do not, across religious affiliations (Hall et al., 2015; see also Singh & Henrich, 2020). ...
... First, across countries with Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and secular majorities (N > 3,200), religious people are perceived as less likely to commit uncooperative behaviors than nonreligious people (Gervais et al., 2017;Gervais, 2013Gervais, , 2014, and part of this effect may be due to religious people being perceived as regularly cultivating their self-control. Consistent with this possibility, experimental evidence indicates that religious people are perceived not only as more trustworthy, but also as more self-controlled (Moon et al., 2018), and that the perception that they are more self-controlled mediates the relationship between religiosity and greater perceived trustworthiness (Moon et al., 2018). Among religious people, those described as respecting rituals that require exercising self-control (e.g., abstaining from meat during Lent for Christians) are perceived as more trustworthy than religious people who do not, across religious affiliations (Hall et al., 2015; see also Singh & Henrich, 2020). ...
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Why do many societies moralize apparently harmless pleasures, such as lust, gluttony, alcohol, drugs, and even music and dance? Why do they erect temperance, asceticism, sobriety, modesty, and piety as cardinal moral virtues? According to existing theories, this puritanical morality cannot be reduced to concerns for harm and fairness: it must emerge from cognitive systems that did not evolve for cooperation (e.g., disgust-based “Purity” concerns). Here, we argue that, despite appearances, puritanical morality is no exception to the cooperative function of moral cognition. It emerges in response to a key feature of cooperation, namely that cooperation is (ultimately) a long-term strategy, requiring (proximately) the self-control of appetites for immediate gratification. Puritanical moralizations condemn behaviors which, although inherently harmless, are perceived as indirectly facilitating uncooperative behaviors, by impairing the self-control required to refrain from cheating. Drinking, drugs, immodest clothing, and unruly music and dance, are condemned as stimulating short-term impulses, thus facilitating uncooperative behaviors (e.g., violence, adultery, free-riding). Overindulgence in harmless bodily pleasures (e.g., masturbation, gluttony) is perceived as making people slave to their urges, thus altering abilities to resist future antisocial temptations. Daily self-discipline, ascetic temperance, and pious ritual observance are perceived as cultivating the self-control required to honor prosocial obligations. We review psychological, historical, and ethnographic evidence supporting this account. We use this theory to explain the fall of puritanism in WEIRD societies, and discuss the cultural evolution of puritanical norms. Explaining puritanical norms does not require adding mechanisms unrelated to cooperation in our models of the moral mind.
... Second, religious individuals could be perceived to be more likely to engage in costly behaviors that signal trustworthiness. These may include the tendency to pursue a committed reproductive strategy (e.g., fewer sexual partners, greater parental investment; Moon et al., 2018) and follow religious commitments (e.g., dietary restrictions; Hall et al., 2015). These costly behaviors may, in turn, serve as cues that signal cooperativeness and trustworthiness. ...
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Believers of karma believe in ethical causation where good and bad outcomes can be traced to past moral and immoral acts. Karmic belief may have important interpersonal consequences. We investigated whether American Christians expect more trustworthiness from (and are more likely to trust) interaction partners who believe in karma. We conducted an incentivized study of the trust game where interaction partners had different beliefs in karma and God. Participants expected more trustworthiness from (and were more likely to trust) karma believers. Expectations did not match actual behavior: karmic belief was not associated with actual trustworthiness. These findings suggest that people may use others’ karmic belief as a cue to predict their trustworthiness but would err when doing so.
... The link between religiosity and trustworthiness has been endorsed by new psychologists' studies, arguing that there are consistent research findings showing that religious people are more trusted than non-religious people because religious people believe that they will be rewarded when acting rightly according to their moral and religious values, and that they will be punished if they act immorally (Moon et al. 2018). ...
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Since 11 September 2001, Islam has been viewed as a threat to global stability rather than as a potential factor for peacebuilding and development. Therefore, most studies on Islam have been framed around security. Although research on the security threat posed by Islamist extremists is understandable, the main purpose of this study is to explore and give more attention to positive and continued contributions of Islamic faith to Somalia’s history and its current situation. To date, Islam has had an enormous constructive impact on Somali society at different stages of its history. It has strengthened peace capacity and development aspects such as literacy, socio-economic factors, justice, urbanisation, common identity and shared future aspirations, which have risen above clan divisions. In terms of methods, this study employs descriptive and analytical research methodologies. In conclusion, despite the current negative interpretation, activities, and actions attributed to the extremist Islamist groups in Somalia and beyond, Islam, on the other hand, has contributed enormously to civilising Somalis, shaping their common identity, nurturing a culture of peace, and improving social development. As it has been in the past, it maintains the potential to provide for Somalia’s future stability and prosperity.
... THINKING ABOUT GOD DISCOURAGES DEHUMANIZATION 3 et al., 2016). Because such beliefs are complex and multifaceted, we were interested in validating our brief perspective-taking manipulation by examining it alongside a six-item measure of Big God beliefs such as that God is rewarding, punishing, knowing, caring, and powerful (Moon et al., 2018). Sample items include "I believe God knows everything about everything" and "I believe that God cares what I do" (a = .86). ...
In seven studies, six with American Christians and one with Israeli Jews (total N = 2,323), we examine how and when belief in moralizing gods influences dehumanization of ethno-religious outgroups. We focus on dehumanization because it is a key feature of intergroup conflict. In Studies 1-6, participants completed measures of dehumanization from their own perspectives and also from the perspective of God, rating the groups' humanity as they thought God would rate it, or wish for them to rate it. When participants completed measures from both their own and God's perspectives, they reported believing that, compared with their own views, God would see (or prefer for them to see) outgroup members as more human. In Study 7, we extend these findings by demonstrating that thinking about God's views reduces the extent to which religious believers personally dehumanize outgroup members. Collectively, results demonstrate that religious believers attribute universalizing moral attitudes to God, compared to themselves, and document how thinking about God's views can promote more positive intergroup attitudes. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
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This study described the religious attitudes influenced by the Jawi Script upon people living in the Seulimeum Subdistrict of Aceh Besar District, Indonesia. The data for this qualitative study were gathered through interviews and observations that included three activities: behavioral observation, direct questioning, and direct disclosure. A checklist and field notes accompanied observations, while direct questioning and direct disclosure involved unstructured interviews with eight respondents. The data was then qualitatively analyzed using descriptive analysis techniques. The study's findings suggested that the Jawi script instructional process had influenced respondents’ religious attitudes toward aqidah, ibadah, morals, and social society. In the field of aqidah, Jawi script instructional process strengthened the aqidah that adheres to the creed of Ahlusunnah wal Jama’ah. They also rejected another aqidah, armed with knowledge from the Jawi Script. Religious attitudes also were reflected in ibadah activities under the knowledge learned from the Shafi'i school of thought's Jawi Script. Regarding morals and social society, Jawi script instructional process strengthened husband-wife relationships, strengthened social traditions with Islamic nuances, and fostered social unity.
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Many evolutionary models explain why we cooperate with non-kin, but few explain why cooperative behaviour and trust vary. Here, we introduce a model of cooperation as a signal of time preferences, which addresses this variability. At equilibrium in our model (i) future-oriented individuals are more motivated to cooperate, (ii) future-oriented populations have access to a wider range of cooperative opportunities, and (iii) spontaneous and inconspicuous cooperation reveal stronger preference for the future, and therefore inspire more trust. Our theory sheds light on the variability of cooperative behaviour and trust. Since affluence tends to align with time preferences, results (i) and (ii) explain why cooperation is often associated with affluence, in surveys and field studies. Time preferences also explain why we trust others based on proxies for impulsivity, and, following result (iii), why uncalculating, subtle and one-shot cooperators are deemed particularly trustworthy. Time preferences provide a powerful and parsimonious explanatory lens, through which we can better understand the variability of trust and cooperation.
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How robust is the perceived association between immorality and atheism? Studies across 13 countries demonstrate that immoral behaviour is intuitively associated with atheism: people routinely assume that an immoral person is likely to be an atheist, and this effect is consistent across a wide range of societies, though with notable variation.
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In recent years, Mechanical Turk (MTurk) has revolutionized social science by providing a way to collect behavioral data with unprecedented speed and efficiency. However, MTurk was not intended to be a research tool, and many common research tasks are difficult and time-consuming to implement as a result. TurkPrime was designed as a research platform that integrates with MTurk and supports tasks that are common to the social and behavioral sciences. Like MTurk, TurkPrime is an Internet-based platform that runs on any browser and does not require any downloads or installation. Tasks that can be implemented with TurkPrime include: excluding participants on the basis of previous participation, longitudinal studies, making changes to a study while it is running, automating the approval process, increasing the speed of data collection, sending bulk e-mails and bonuses, enhancing communication with participants, monitoring dropout and engagement rates, providing enhanced sampling options, and many others. This article describes how TurkPrime saves time and resources, improves data quality, and allows researchers to design and implement studies that were previously very difficult or impossible to carry out on MTurk. TurkPrime is designed as a research tool whose aim is to improve the quality of the crowdsourcing data collection process. Various features have been and continue to be implemented on the basis of feedback from the research community. TurkPrime is a free research platform.
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Since the origins of agriculture, the scale of human cooperation and societal complexity has dramatically expanded. This fact challenges standard evolutionary explanations of prosociality because well-studied mechanisms of cooperation based on genetic relatedness, reciprocity and partner choice falter as people increasingly engage in fleeting transactions with genetically unrelated strangers in large anonymous groups. To explain this rapid expansion of prosociality, researchers have proposed several mechanisms. Here we focus on one key hypothesis: cognitive representations of gods as increasingly knowledgeable and punitive, and who sanction violators of interpersonal social norms, foster and sustain the expansion of cooperation, trust and fairness towards co-religionist strangers. We tested this hypothesis using extensive ethnographic interviews and two behavioural games designed to measure impartial rule-following among people (n = 591, observations = 35,400) from eight diverse communities from around the world: (1) inland Tanna, Vanuatu; (2) coastal Tanna, Vanuatu; (3) Yasawa, Fiji; (4) Lovu, Fiji; (5) Pesqueiro, Brazil; (6) Pointe aux Piments, Mauritius; (7) the Tyva Republic (Siberia), Russia; and (8) Hadzaland, Tanzania. Participants reported adherence to a wide array of world religious traditions including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as notably diverse local traditions, including animism and ancestor worship. Holding a range of relevant variables constant, the higher participants rated their moralistic gods as punitive and knowledgeable about human thoughts and actions, the more coins they allocated to geographically distant co-religionist strangers relative to both themselves and local co-religionists. Our results support the hypothesis that beliefs in moralistic, punitive and knowing gods increase impartial behaviour towards distant co-religionists, and therefore can contribute to the expansion of prosociality.
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Significance Ecological features shape people’s goals, strategies, and behaviors. Our research suggests that social perceivers possess a lay understanding of ecology’s influence on behavior, resulting in ecology-driven stereotypes. Moreover, because race is confounded with ecology in the United States, Americans’ stereotypes about racial groups may actually reflect their stereotypes about these groups’ presumed home ecologies. In a series of studies, we demonstrate that ( i ) individuals possess ecology-driven stereotypes; ( ii ) these stereotypes are not derivative of race stereotypes; and ( iii ) the application of race stereotypes to targets is greatly diminished when more immediate cues to home ecology are present. These findings have important implications for the conceptualization of race stereotypes, as well as for reducing the application of pernicious stereotypes to individuals.
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We studied cross-cultural associations between religiosity and mating strategies by examining empirical links between personal religiosity and permissive sexuality across 10 major regions of the world-North America, South America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Middle East, Africa, Oceania, South/Southeast Asia, and East Asia. We expected and found higher personal religiosity was cross-culturally associated with lower sexual permissivity, and these associations were typically stronger among women than men. We also expected and found higher personal religiosity was associated with higher levels of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness across most regions. These findings were consistent with evolutionary perspectives emphasizing religion's role in encouraging within-group cooperation, promoting social morality and norm-adherence, and reducing sexual permissivity. This investigation lends empirical support to studies showing religions are at least partially shaped by genetically evolved mechanisms designed by natural selection to solve persisting biological needs involving large scale social cooperation, alloparental care, and committed/monogamous reproductive strategies.
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In contrast with tribal and archaic religions, world religions are characterized by a unique emphasis on extended prosociality, restricted sociosexuality, delayed gratification and the belief that these specific behaviours are sanctioned by some kind of supernatural justice. Here, we draw on recent advances in life history theory to explain this pattern of seemingly unrelated features. Life history theory examines how organisms adaptively allocate resources in the face of trade-offs between different life-goals (e.g. growth versus reproduction, exploitation versus exploration). In particular, recent studies have shown that individuals, including humans, adjust their life strategy to the environment through phenotypic plasticity: in a harsh environment, organisms tend to adopt a ‘fast’ strategy, pursuing smaller but more certain benefits, while in more affluent environments, organisms tend to develop a ‘slow’ strategy, aiming for larger but less certain benefits. Reviewing a range of recent research, we show that world religions are associated with a form of ‘slow’ strategy. This framework explains both the promotion of ‘slow’ behaviours such as altruism, self-regulation and monogamy in modern world religions, and the condemnation of ‘fast’ behaviours such as selfishness, conspicuous sexuality and materialism. This ecological approach also explains the diffusion pattern of world religions: why they emerged late in human history (500–300 BCE), why they are currently in decline in the most affluent societies and why they persist in some places despite this overall decline.
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We conducted 4 experiments to examine how people incorporate visual information about strangers' religious identities-religious badges-into their decisions about how much to trust them. Experiment 1 revealed that Christian and non-Christian participants were more trusting (as measured by self-report) of targets who wore a religious badge associated with Christianity (Ash Wednesday ashes) than toward targets who did not wear such a badge. Experiment 2 replicated Experiment 1 and also revealed that the effects of Ash Wednesday ashes on Christians' and non-Christians' trust extended to a behavioral measure of trust (i.e., monetary allocations in a multiplayer trust game). Experiment 3 replicated Experiments 1 and 2 with a different religious badge (a necklace with the Christian cross on it). Experiment 4 ruled out a potential confound. Consistent with a stereotype interpretation, these results suggest that U.S. students regard visual cues to people's espousal of Christian religious beliefs as signals of their trustworthiness. (PsycINFO Database Record
Mounting evidence supports long-standing claims that religions can extend cooperative networks 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 . However, religious prosociality may have a strongly parochial component 5 . Moreover, aspects of religion may promote or exacerbate conflict with those outside a given religious group, promoting regional violence 10 , intergroup conflict 11 and tacit prejudice against non-believers 12 ,13 . Anti-atheist prejudice—a growing concern in increasingly secular societies 14 —affects employment, elections, family life and broader social inclusion 12 ,13 . Preliminary work in the United States suggests that anti-atheist prejudice stems, in part, from deeply rooted intuitions about religion’s putatively necessary role in morality. However, the cross-cultural prevalence and magnitude—as well as intracultural demographic stability—of such intuitions, as manifested in intuitive associations of immorality with atheists, remain unclear. Here, we quantify moral distrust of atheists by applying well-tested measures in a large global sample (N = 3,256; 13 diverse countries). Consistent with cultural evolutionary theories of religion and morality, people in most—but not all— of these countries viewed extreme moral violations as representative of atheists. Notably, anti-atheist prejudice was even evident among atheist participants around the world. The results contrast with recent polls that do not find self-reported moral prejudice against atheists in highly secular countries 15 , and imply that the recent rise in secularism in Western countries has not overwritten intuitive anti-atheist prejudice. Entrenched moral suspicion of atheists suggests that religion’s powerful influence on moral judgements persists, even among non-believers in secular societies.
Identifying causal mechanisms has become a cornerstone of experimental social psychology, and editors in top social psychology journals champion the use of mediation methods, particularly innovative ones when possible (e.g. Halberstadt, 2010, Smith, 2012). Commonly, studies in experimental social psychology randomly assign participants to levels of the independent variable and measure the mediating and dependent variables, and the mediator is assumed to causally affect the dependent variable. However, participants are not randomly assigned to levels of the mediating variable(s), i.e., the relationship between the mediating and dependent variables is correlational. Although researchers likely know that correlational studies pose a risk of confounding, this problem seems forgotten when thinking about experimental designs randomly assigning participants to levels of the independent variable and measuring the mediator (i.e., "measurement-of-mediation" designs). Experimentally manipulating the mediator provides an approach to solving these problems, yet these methods contain their own set of challenges (e.g., Bullock, Green, & Ha, 2010). We describe types of experimental manipulations targeting the mediator (manipulations demonstrating a causal effect of the mediator on the dependent variable and manipulations targeting the strength of the causal effect of the mediator) and types of experimental designs (double randomization, concurrent double randomization, and parallel), provide published examples of the designs, and discuss the strengths and challenges of each design. Therefore, the goals of this paper include providing a practical guide to manipulation-of-mediator designs in light of their challenges and encouraging researchers to use more rigorous approaches to mediation because manipulation-of-mediator designs strengthen the ability to infer causality of the mediating variable on the dependent variable.