Download Religion's role in prosocial behavior - Université catholique de PDF

TitleReligion's role in prosocial behavior - Université catholique de
File Size182.9 KB
Total Pages16
Document Text Contents
Page 1








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

An Intriguing Discrepancy
and the Suspicion of Moral

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


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 )


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


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


Dillon, M., Wink, P. & Fay, K. (2003). Is
spirituality determinant to generativity?
Journal for the Scientific Study of
Religion, 42, 427–442.

Duriez, B. (2004). Taking a closer look
at the religion-empathy relationship:
Are religious people nicer people?
Mental Health, Religion, and Culture,
7, 249–254.

Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and
society (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.

Fontaine, J. R. J., Duriez, B., Luyten, P.,
Corveleyn, J., & Hutsebaut, D. (2005).
Consequences of a multi-dimensional
approach to religion for the relationship
between religiosity and value priorities.
International Journal for the Psychology
of Religion, 15, 123–143.

Freud, S. (1913/1919). Totem and taboo
(A. A. Brills, Trans.). London: Routledge.

Freud, S. (1927/1961). The future of an
illusion (J. Strachey, Trans.). New York:

Funder, D. C. (2001). Personality. Annual
Review of Psychology, 52, 197–221.

Funder, D. C., & Colvin, C. R. (1997).
Congruence of others’ and self-judgments
of personality. In R. Hogan, J. Johnson, &
S. Briggs (Eds.), Handbook of personality
psychology (pp. 617–647). New York:
Academic Press.

Goldfried, J., & Miner, M. (2002). Quest
religion and the problem of limited
compassion. Journal for the Scientific
Study of Religion, 41, 685–695.

Hunsberger, B., & Jackson, L. M. (2005).
Religion, meaning, and prejudice.
Journal of Social Issues, 61, 807–826.

Jackson, L. M., & Esses, V. M. (1997). Of
scripture and ascription: The relation
between religious fundamentalism and
intergroup helping. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 893–906.

James, W. (1902/1985). The varieties of
religious experience: A study in human
nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.

John Climacus (1982). The Ladder of divine
ascent. (C. Luibheid & N. Russel, Trans.).
New York: Paulist Press.

Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1993). Fundamentalism,
Christian orthodoxy, and intrinsic
religious orientation as predictors of
discriminatory attitudes. Journal for the
Scientific Study of Religion, 32, 256–268.

Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2005). Attachment,
evolution, and the psychology of religion.
New York: Guilford Press.

Krueger, R. F., Hicks, B. M., & McGue, M.
(2001). Altruism and antisocial behaviour:
Independent tendencies, unique
personality correlates, distinct etiologies.
Psychological Science, 12, 397–402.

Laythe, B., Finkel, D., Bringle, R., &
Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2002). Religious
fundamentalism as a predictor of
prejudice: A two-component model.
Journal for the Scientific Study of
Religion, 41, 623–635.

Lewis, C. A. (1999). Is the relationship
between religiosity and personality
‘contaminated’ by social desirability
as assessed by the Lie Scale?: A meth-
odological reply to Michael W. Eysenck
(1998). Mental Health, Religion, and
Culture, 2, 105–114.

Lewis, C. A. (2000). The religiosity-
psychoticism relationship and the two
factors of social desirability: A response
to Michael W. Eysenck (1999). Mental
Health, Religion, and Culture, 3, 39–45.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1999). A
five-factor theory of personality. In L. A.
Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of
personality: Theory and research (pp.
139–153). New York: Guilford Press.

McCullough, M. E., Tsang, J.-A., & Brion, S.
(2003). Personality traits in adolescence
as predictors of religiousness in early
adulthood: Findings from the Terman
Longitudinal Study. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 980–991.

McCullough, M. E., & Worthington, E. L., Jr.
(1999). Religion and the forgiving
personality. Journal of Personality, 67,

MacDonald, D. A. (2000). Spirituality:
Description, measurement, and relation
to the five factor model of personality.
Journal of Personality, 68, 153–197.

McFadden, S. H. (1999). Religion,
personality, and aging: A life span
perspective. Journal of Personality, 67,

Mischel, W. (2004). Toward an integrative
science of the person. Annual Review of
Psychology, 55, 1–22.

Ones, D. S., Viswesvaran, C., & Reiss, A. D.
(1996). Role of social desirability in
personality testing for personnel
selection: The red herring. Journal of
Applied Psychology, 81, 660–679.

Rosenzweig, S. (1976). Aggressive behavior
and the Rosenzweig Picture-Frustration
(P-F) Study. Journal of Clinical
Psychology, 32, 885–891.

Rushton, J. P., Chrisjohn, R. D., & Fekken,
G. C. (1981). The altruistic personality
and the Self-Report Altruism Scale.
Personality and Individual Differences,
2, 293–302.

Pichon, I., Boccato, G., & Saroglou, V.
(2005, May). Being prosocial without
awareness: On the impact of religion
prime on prosociality. Poster presented at
the Belgian Association for Psychological
Sciences Conference, Gent.

Saroglou, V. (2002). Religion and the five
factors of personality: A meta-analytic
review. Personality and Individual
Differences, 32, 15–25.

Saroglou, V. (2004). Being religious implies
being different in humour: Evidence from
self- and peer-ratings. Mental Health,
Religion, and Culture, 7, 255–267.

Saroglou, V. (in press). Religion and
personality: A Big Five Factor perspec-
tive. In D. Wulff (Ed.), Handbook of
psychology of religion. New York: Oxford
University Press.

Saroglou, V., Delpierre, V., & Dernelle, R.
(2004). Values and religiosity: A meta-
analysis of studies using Schwartz’s
model. Personality and Individual
Differences, 37, 721–734.

Saroglou, V., & Dupuis J. (in press). Being
Buddhist in Western Europe: Cognitive
needs, prosocial character, and values.
International Journal for the Psychology
of Religion.

Saroglou, V., & Fiasse, L. (2003). Birth
order, personality, and religion: A study
among young adults from a three-sibling
family. Personality and Individual
Differences, 35, 19–29.

Saroglou, V., & Galand, P. (2004).
Identities, values, and religion: A study
among Muslim, other immigrant, and
native Belgian young adults after the
9/11 attacks. Identity: An International
Journal of Theory and Research, 4,

Saroglou, V., & Muñoz, A. G. (2006).
Individual differences in religion and
spirituality: An issue of personality
and/or values. Manuscript submitted for

Saroglou, V., Pichon, I. Trompette, L.,
Verschueren, M., & Dernelle, R. (2005).
Prosocial behavior and religion: New
evidence based on projective measures
and peer ratings. Journal for the Scien-
tific Study of Religion, 44, 323–348.

Skinner, B. F. (1969). Contingencies of
reinforcement: A theoretical analysis.
New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Todorov, T. (1991). Face à l’extrême. Paris:

Zinnbauer, B. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2005).
Religiousness and spirituality. In R. F.
Paloutzian & C. L. Park (Eds.), Handbook
of the psychology of religion and
spirituality (pp. 21–42). New York:
Guilford Press.


[ VOL. 31, NO. 2 ]

ReligionÕs Role (from page 7)

Page 9


Honoring the 2006 Division 36 Award Recipients

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

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.

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
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.

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-


Page 15


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: __________________

Highest Degree: ___________ Major field of study: ____________________________________

Institution: ___________________________________________

Briefly summarize your interest in Division 36:

Signature: _______________________________ Date: _______________

Send Applications to: William Hathaway, Membership Chair

Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology

CRB 161

1000 Regent University Drive

Virginia Beach, VA 23456

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

Page 16



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.

Similer Documents