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AM

ERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL
ASS

OC
IA

TI
ON

DIVISION 3
6

PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION

NEWSLETTER
AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION DIVISION 36

V O L U M E 3 1 , N O . 2 S P R I N G 2 0 0 6

Imagine a student, a friend, or a col-league asking you whether religion hasan impact on prosocial behavior or
whether religious people tend to behave
in a prosocial way. What would be your
answer?

An Intriguing Discrepancy
and the Suspicion of Moral
Hypocrisy

If you based your answer on almost
all classic theorists, the answer would
be affirmative. For instance, religion,
as part of culture, provides mechanisms
that control the natural destructiveness
of humans caused by their narcissism and
sexual impulses (Freud, 1927/1961). God
is seen as a projection of the superegotic
instance of the imaginary father and as
such reminds us of the two important
taboos of incest and killing (Freud, 1913/
1919). Generativity, as the main develop-
mental task of middle adulthood (Erikson,
1963), is particularly emphasized within a
religious perspective (McFadden, 1999).
Saints and holy figures are models of
charity and altruism, i.e. behaviors that
are pragmatically risky but important for
human community (James, 1902/1985).
Religion provides specific reinforcements
and punishments, thus solidifying social
moral standards (Skinner, 1969). Finally,
from a sociobiological and evolutionary
perspective, it is assumed that religion
allows for a shift from altruism limited
to natural kinship towards a cultural
altruism extended to a larger cultural
“kinship” (Batson, 1983) and for the cre-
ation of broad coalitions promoting ties
of extended reciprocal altruism (Kirk-
patrick, 2005).

But if you turn to empirical research, the
answer to our question becomes more
difficult and quite complex. On the one
hand, self-report measures of different
aspects of prosociality—volunteering,
helping behavior, agreeable personality
(Big Five), low psychoticism (Eysenck’s
personality model), forgiveness, valuing
benevolence, sense of generativity—
provide systematic evidence in favor
of the above theories: religious people
report being prosocial and they do so
across the large variety of the above-
mentioned ways in which prosociality
is expressed (Batson et al., 1993, 2005;
Dillon et al., 2003; McCullough & Wor-
thington, 1999; Saroglou, 2002, in press;
Saroglou et al., 2004). Interestingly, this
prosocial tendency as a function of reli-
gion seems to be universal. For instance,
the high agreeableness of religious peo-
ple seems constant across countries, reli-
gions, and even cohorts (McCullough et
al., 2003; Saroglou, 2002, in press), and
the importance of the value of benevo-
lence among religious people is typical of
Jewish, Christian, Muslim (Saroglou et al.,

Religion’s Role
in Prosocial

Behavior:
Myth

or Reality?

Vassilis Saroglou

Université catholique
de Louvain

Dr. Saroglou was the
recipient of the APA

Division 36
2005 Margaret Gorman

Early Career Award

( Continued on page 2 )

INSIDE

2006 Award Winner Bios .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ 9

Executive Committee Minutes. . . . . . 10

Council Report . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Position Announcement .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ 11

Candidate Statements .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ 12

Membership Application . . . . . . . 15

Our Mission .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ .˚ 16

Page 2

PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION NEWSLETTER — APA DIVISION 36 2

2004), and Buddhist (Saroglou & Dupuis,
in press) samples.

On the other hand, there are many
counter-indications or at least findings
implying skepticism, especially—but not
only—when we move to studies using
measures other than self-report question-
naires. First, the tendency of religious
people to volunteer may simply be an
artifact of belonging to religious organiza-
tions that happen to organize volunteer-
type activities. Second, the size of the
associations between religion and pro-
social measures is usually weak (not
exceeding, for instance, .20 for agree-
ableness and benevolence). Third, not all
religious dimensions imply prosocial ten-
dencies. Fundamentalist (e.g., Jackson &
Esses, 1997), orthodox (e.g., Kirkpatrick,
1993), and in some cases even intrinsi-
cally religious people (e.g., Batson et al.,
1999) often show prejudice, discrimina-
tion, or at least lack of prosociality
towards outgroups or people threatening
their values (Hunsberger & Jackson, 2005,
for review). Four, and more importantly,
social experiments demonstrate that the
motivation of prosocial behavior among
the intrinsically religious is not altruistic,
but rather egotistic: the need to be per-
ceived by others as good and the non-
consideration of the real needs as
expressed by the persons asking for help
are dominant (Batson et al., 1993, 2005).
Finally, even for forgiveness, which is
particularly emphasized within religion,
results based on measures other than
self-report questionnaires are rather dis-
appointing (McCullough & Worthington,
1999; see also Cohen et al., 2006).

The contrast between the ideals and
self-perceptions of religious people and
the results of studies using other research
strategies is so striking that researchers
may be tempted to suspect moral
hypocrisy in religious people. For
instance, Batson et al. (1993) suspected
moral hypocrisy in religious people with
regard to prejudice: social experimental
studies did not confirm the universal
brotherhood ideals and even provided
evidence to the contrary. Intrinsically
religious people seem to need to appear
prosocial rather than to really be so (Bat-
son et al., 2005).

Making Sense of the
Discrepancy and Moving Ahead:
Towards the Reality of
Minimal Prosociality

We argue that the interpretative hypothe-
sis of moral hypocrisy, although legitimate,
may obscure rather than clarify our psy-
chological understanding of the religion
and prosociality issue, especially if it is
extended from a discrepancy between
altruistic ideals or self-perceptions and a
self-centered motivation to a discrepancy
between these ideals or self-perceptions
and the absence of prosocial behavior.
First, even from a philosophical perspec-
tive, it is debatable whether self-interest
and the personal need for a positive self-
image can so easily be classified as an
egotistic, and thus non-altruistic motivation
for prosocial behavior. More importantly,
if we leave aside the—again, otherwise
legitimate—question of motivation, the
contrast is so strong between theories
(almost all theories) and self-report-based
studies (systematic findings) confirming
the inherent links between religion and
prosociality, and the many other (often
social-experimental) studies that fail to
confirm or even contradict the religion-
prosociality association, that one cannot
so quickly draw conclusions of moral
hypocrisy in religious people. Have all
classic psychology of religion theorists
then been wrong? Are religious people so
anxious about their image that they create
a self-perception so distant from reality?

A more economic and perhaps more real-
istic understanding of previous theory
and research is to assume that the proso-
ciality of religious people (a) also exists
outside these people’s minds (religious
people are not delusional when they
report being agreeable), but (b) is not
extended to universal and unconditional
altruism (this may be the case of some
saints or some very specific orientations):
the prosociality of religious people is
rather restricted to a minimal prosocial
behavior, i.e. a prosocial behavior limited
to some targets and some conditions.

More precisely, religious people may tend
not to behave prosocially when targets
are outgroup members, people that

[ VOL. 31, NO. 2 ]

( Continued on page 3 )

ReligionÕs Role

— from page 1

The contrast
between the ideals

and self-perceptions
of religious people

and the results of
studies using other
research strategies

is so striking that
researchers may be
tempted to suspect
moral hypocrisy in

religious people.

Page 8

PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION NEWSLETTER — APA DIVISION 36 8

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Funder, D. C. (2001). Personality. Annual
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Funder, D. C., & Colvin, C. R. (1997).
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Jackson, L. M., & Esses, V. M. (1997). Of
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James, W. (1902/1985). The varieties of
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u

[ VOL. 31, NO. 2 ]

ReligionÕs Role (from page 7)

Page 9

PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION NEWSLETTER — APA DIVISION 36 9[ VOL. 31, NO. 2 ]

Honoring the 2006 Division 36 Award Recipients

WILLIAM C. BIER AWARD
Leslie Francis

Dr. Francis currently holds the Chair
of Practical Theology in the Univer-
sity of Wales, Bangor, United King-
dom. He holds higher doctorates
from the University of Oxford (DD
in empirical theology) and the Uni-
versity of Cambridge (ScD in the
psychology of religious develop-
ment). Working as an empirical
theologian, Dr. Francis is concerned
to integrate psychological theories
and methodologies within theologi-
cal inquiry. Working as a psycholo-
gist of religion, Dr Francis is con-
cerned to operationalize and mea-
sure theologically- informed aspects
of religion. His ongoing research
projects include work in the theol-
ogy of individual differences, the
work-related psychological health
of clergy, and studies in personality
and religion. His recent authored
and edited books include three
volumes in the Personality Type
and Scripture Series, Exploring
Matthew’s Gospel (2000), Exploring
Luke’s Gospel (2001) and Exploring
Mark’s Gospel (2002); Joining and
Leaving Religion (2000); Psychologi-
cal Perspectives on Prayer (2001);
The Naked Parish Priest (2003);
Changing Rural Life (2004); The
Idea of a Christian University
(2004); Faith and Psychology
(2005); Fragmented Faith (2005);
and Religion, Education and
Adolescence (2005). Dr Francis is
senior editor of Rural Theology,
co-editor of Archive for the Psy-
chology of Religion, and associate
editor of Journal of Beliefs and
Values.

VIRGINIA SEXTON MENTORING
AWARD
Michael McCullough
Michael E. McCullough, PhD, is an
associate professor in the Depart-
ment of Psychology and the Depart-
ment of Religious Studies at the
University of Miami in Coral Gables,
Florida. His scholarly work focuses
on two topics. First, he is interested
in the psychology and evolution
of moral sentiments including grati-
tude, forgiveness, and the desire for
revenge, as well as their links to
health and well-being. Second, he
is interested in several aspects of
religion and spirituality, including
how they evolved, how they
develop in individuals, and their
links to health, well-being, and
social behavior. In 2000 he received
the Margaret Gorman Early Career
Award from the Psychology of Reli-
gion Division of the American Psy-
chological Association. In 2001 he
was awarded an American Psycho-
logical Association/John Templeton
Foundation award for research in
Positive Psychology. Dr. McCul-
lough has also authored or edited
five books.

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
Michael Nielsen

Michael Nielsen was awarded his
doctorate in social psychology from
Northern Illinois University in 1992.
Since 1993 he has been a faculty
member at Georgia Southern Uni-
versity. Shortly after joining GSU he
created his psychology of religion
website, http://www.psywww.com/
psyrelig/. The website has become
a hub for information regarding the
psychology of religion, with

resources aimed at students, faculty
and others who are interested in the
field. Through his website he has
answered thousands of e-mails and
promoted the psychological study
of religion. The website now also
serves as the gateway to The Som-
mervogel Archive, a searchable data-
base developed by Michael Donahue
and underwritten by Division 36.

MARGARET GORMAN EARLY
CAREER AWARD
Mark Koltko-Rivera

Mark Koltko-Rivera received his
Ph.D. in counseling psychology
from New York University in 2000.
He is currently director of research
at Professional Services Group, Inc.
(Winter Park, Florida), where he
is PI on several externally funded
research projects (e.g., development
of a screen for psychiatric disorders).
He has taught on an adjunct basis
at NYU, the University of Central
Florida, Manhattanville College, and
Hartford Seminary. In his recent pri-
vate scholarship, he has published
or is developing theoretical and
empirical papers on the constructs
of worldview, religiosity, basis of
religious belief, religious identity,
and their assessment. His article,
“The Psychology of Worldviews”
(Review of General Psychology,
2004), won APA Division 1’s George
A. Miller Award for an outstanding
paper in unified psychology. He
is writing a book addressing the
debate between Darwinian evolu-
tion and biblical religion, including
its underlying psychological founda-
tions.

u

Page 15

PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION NEWSLETTER — APA DIVISION 36 15[ VOL. 31, NO. 2 ]

Application for Division 36: Psychology of Religion American Psychological Association

Please photocopy and distribute to those interested in joining Division 36

Name: (Last, First, M.I.) ______________________________________________________________________

Home Address: _____________________________________________________________________________

Office Address: _____________________________________________________________________________

Email: _____________________ Home Phone ( ) ____________ Office Phone ( )_____________

Send mail to: ____Home _____ Office

Present Membership Status in APA: ___ Fellow ___ Member ___ Associate ____Student Affiliate ____None*

Status Sought in Division 36: ___ Fellow ___ Member ___ Associate ___ Student Affiliate ___Professional Affiliate

*If you are not currently an APA member, please include a copy of your CV

APA Membership #: ______________ Date of original APA membership: __________________

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Briefly summarize your interest in Division 36:

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Send Applications to: William Hathaway, Membership Chair

Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology

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Applications should be accompanied by a check for $15 (US) made out to “Div. 36 of APA”

Page 16

PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION NEWSLETTER — APA DIVISION 36 16

PSYCHOLOGY OF RELIGION NEWSLETTER

EDITOR: Patrick R. Bennett, Ph.D., Indiana State University

The Newsletter is the official publication of the American Psychological Association Division 36, Psychology of Religion. The Newsletter

invites articles, interviews, book reviews and announcements relevant to the interdisciplinary focus of psychology and religion. Editorial

inquiries should be addressed to: Patrick R. Bennett, Ph.D.; Editor, Division 36 Newsletter; Department of Psychology; Indiana State Uni-

versity; Root Hall, Room B-211; Terre Haute, IN 47809. Phone: (812) 237-2446 Email: [email protected]

[ VOL.31, NO.1 ]

Our Mission...
Division 36, Psychology of Religion

• Promotes the application of psychological research methods and interpretive
frameworks to diverse forms of religion and spirituality;

• encourages the incorporation of the results of such work into clinical and
other applied settings;

• and fosters constructive dialogue and interchange between psychological
study and practice, on the one hand, and religious perspectives and institutions
on the other.

The division is strictly nonsectarian and welcomes the participation of all persons, without regard
to personal faith, who view religion as a significant factor in human functioning.

The division’s quarterly Newsletter contains original articles, book reviews, announcements, and
news of interest to division members.

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