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Study: Thinking about God increases generosity toward outsiders

According to a new study published in Psychological Science, thinking about God can lead to an increase in generosity toward outsiders. The results suggest that religion can motivate people to be generous even towards outsiders including towards groups they distrust. The study titled “Thinking About God Encourages Prosociality Toward Religious Outgroups,” involved asking over 4,700 respondents in the United States, Fiji and the Middle East whether they would be willing to share their money with people from other faiths while thinking about what God wanted them to do. The answers revealed that thinking about God resulted in an 11% rise in giving. Participants in the study were recruited from Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities.

Christian Today reports:

Religion is often seen as a source of conflict — giving insiders a source of community and support while drawing boundaries against outsiders.

A new study suggests religion can also prompt people to be generous to outsiders, even those from groups they distrust.

For the study, entitled “Thinking About God Encourages Prosociality Toward Religious Outgroups,” researchers asked more than 4,700 people in the United States, the Middle East and Fiji if they were willing to share money with people from a different religious group.

Asking those participants about God — or about what God wanted them to do — led to an 11% increase in giving, according to the study, which was published in Psychological Science.

That result surprised some of the researchers, including Michael Pasek, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois Chicago and one of the lead authors of the study.

Some suspected prompting participants to think about God would make them more generous to people from their religious group but not outsiders. Others thought that thinking about God would increase generosity across the board.

For the study, researchers recruited participants from Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Jewish communities to take part in a series of behavioral economics experiments. During the experiments, research assistants gave people small amounts of money in large envelopes.

Read the full article here.

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