Nav: Home

Religious devotion as predictor of behavior

May 24, 2017

Robert Lynch, a postdoctoral fellow in anthropology, says the level of devotion one feels toward religious beliefs can predict how that person likely will interact with members of his own group or with members outside of the group. Lynch's latest research paper, "Religious Devotion and Extrinsic Religiosity Affect In-group Altruism and Out-group Hostility Oppositely in Rural Jamaica," published in Evolutionary Psychology Science, suggests that a sincere belief in God--religious devotion--is unrelated to feelings of prejudice. Rather, Lynch's research finds that those whose religious beliefs are extrinsic--who use religion as a way to achieve non-religious goals such as attaining status or joining a social group--and who regularly attend religious services are more likely to hold hostile attitudes toward outsiders.

"It's not the true believers who are the problem," Lynch says. "It's the people who use religion, perhaps in a cynical way, to further their goals."

Lynch says one way to look at the issue is to compare ISIS with Al Qaeda. He says ISIS is mostly composed of former Iraqi generals who served under Saddam Hussein, and they are not particularly religious. Members of ISIS routinely kill members of their own group as well as individuals outside their group (both Sunnis and Shias). One of the main objectives for ISIS is to expand its territory, and it often uses a religious pretext to achieve its goals. On the other hand, Al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim organization created in 1988 to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, does not typically kill fellow Muslims. Lynch says members of Al Qaeda are true believers who like members of their own group and are not as hostile to outside groups.

Lynch's research is based on a 30-year study of 288 Jamaican citizens from youth to adulthood by Robert Trivers of Rutgers University, a colleague who is studying symmetry (how much an individual varies from left to right) in the island population. Lynch gave the study participants a survey to determine whether religious beliefs were intrinsic or extrinsic, as well as measuring religious devotion and church attendance. He says the findings suggest that the beliefs and social aspects that underlie religion have distinct effects on attitudes within and between groups. His research found that religious beliefs are positively associated with a willingness to sacrifice for one's beliefs and a greater tolerance of outsiders, while the social facets of religion, such as attendance, promote greater hostility toward outsiders.

"Group membership may be enough to produce a particular behavior and the religious beliefs themselves may be irrelevant," Lynch says. "Taken as a whole, these results point to a generally optimistic view of the ability for religious beliefs to generate compassion and a darker view on the social activities that promote group cohesion, which may also produce hatred of others."
-end-


University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Behavior Articles:

Is Instagram behavior motivated by a desire to belong?
Does a desire to belong and perceived social support drive a person's frequency of Instagram use?
A 3D view of climatic behavior at the third pole
Research across several areas of the 'Third Pole' -- the high-mountain region centered on the Tibetan Plateau -- shows a seasonal cycle in how near-surface temperature changes with elevation.
Witnessing uncivil behavior
When people witness poor customer service, a manager's intervention can help reduce hostility toward the company or brand, according to WSU research.
Whole-brain imaging of mice during behavior
In a study published in Neuron, Emilie Macé from Botond Roska's group and collaborators demonstrate how functional ultrasound imaging can yield high-resolution, brain-wide activity maps of mice for specific behaviors.
Swarmlike collective behavior in bicycling
Nature is full of examples of large-scale collective behavior; humans also exhibit this behavior, most notably in pelotons, the mass of riders in bicycle races.
More Behavior News and Behavior Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...