prosocial behavior, American Psychological Association, prosociality, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Saroglou, V., personality, altruism, Psychology of Religion, Journal of Personality, Study of Religion, moral principles, religion, Altruism International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, religious fundamentalism, Georgetown International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, religious, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Personality traits, Corneille, O., Psychological Science, Van Cappellen, Guilford Press, University Press, religiosity, P. R. Shaver, Journal for the Scientific R Study of Religion, Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, psychological theory, Scientific Study of Religion, Oxford University Press, Social Psychology, religious context, The International Journal, religious concepts, religious words, References Ahmed, A. M., religious sources, Pichon & Saroglou, religious beliefs, empirical research, moral psychology, social behavior, religion and spirituality, Personality and Social Psychology Review
Saroglou, V. (2013). Religion, spirituality, and altruism. In K. I. Pargament, J. J. Exline, & J. W. Jones (Eds.), APA Handbook of psychology, Religion and spirituality
(Vol. 1, pp. 439-457). Washington, DC
: American Psychological Association
. doi: 10.1037/14045-024 Chapter 24
Religion, Spirituality, and Altruism
ASSOCIATION The World Religions
proclaim prosocial values (HabL ito & Inaba, 2006), but it is still unclear whether A these values translate into behaviors (Ellens, 2007) IC and whether they are really altruistic (Neusner & OG Chilton, 2005). Religious and atheist individuals L have diverging opinions regarding whether or not O religion promotes altruism. Historical and contemCH porary evidence seems to provide testimony in favor SY of both sides: Religious charity and religious vioP lence have coexisted, in parallel or intertwined. N Asking the same question from a psychological CA perspective implies the need to focus on people's RI specific cognitions, emotions, and behaviors relating E to altruism and the way these are influenced by, or AM possibly influence, religion. Interestingly, almost all
between different levels of analysis (personality, behavior, and underlying processes), dimensions of religion, and types of proSocial Behavior
. When possible, information will be provided on group-level factors and cross-religious differences, and questions for future research will arise. The conclusion will provide a synthesis of the main lines of knowledge and consider the implications for scholars and practitioners. Mapping the Prosociality-Related Concepts and Processes Psychological research from different fields (social, personality, developmental, and moral psychology)
classic theorists (James, Freud, Skinner, Erikson, © and Allport) and contemporary evolutionary scholFS ars underline the positive connection between reliO gion and altruism, although each approaches this PRO issue from a different theoretical perspective (for a review, see Saroglou, 2006a). ED Yet, religious beliefs, psychological theory, and T Empirical research
are different, sometimes conflictEC ing, things. In the present chapter, a brief overview R of the psychology of altruism and prosocial behavior OR (concepts, models, and research traditions) will C first be provided. Afterward, the chapter will present UNa synthesis of the empirical research on religion
has developed many terms that beyond some common overlap, denote distinct aspects and processes involved in altruism (Dovidio, Piliavin, Schroeder, & Penner, 2006; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2010b). To examine how religion relates to altruism, it is useful to briefly review these concepts and corresponding processes. A key distinction is made between prosocial behavior and altruism. Prosocial behavior is a descriptive, neutral, term denoting an act that benefits others (e.g., help, donation). Altruism refers to the subtler evaluative qualification of the motivation of prosocial behavior as being other-oriented rather
(including spirituality) and prosociality, with an
than egotistic or self-oriented. People may help
emphasis on the past 15 years (for an earlier review, others to get personal or social benefits and not
see Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993). Consistent because they care about the person in need. It is,
with the integrative paradigm of this handbook (see however, a debatable issue in psychology and other
Chapter 1 in this volume), distinctions will be made fields whether it is possible to distinguish between
APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality: Vol. 1. Context, Theory, and Research, K. I. Pargament (Editor-in-Chief) Copyright © 2013 by the American Psychological Association. All rights reserved.
08/06/12 8:57 PM
altruistic and egotistic motivations when people
or reasoning, a major distinction is made between
behave prosocially: When we help others so that we (a) prosociality based on feelings of empathy and sim-
feel good about having done the right thing, or at
ilar other-focused moral emotions such as moral out-
least not guilty for omitting the action, are our
rage (anger, contempt, and disgust), elevation, and
motives egotistic or altruistic? The present chapter gratitude (Bartlett & DeSteno, 2006; Batson, 2010;
will focus on prosocial behavior and prosociality in
Haidt, 2003); and (b) prosociality based on moral
general. The term altruism is used as an equivalent judgments that follow other-oriented moral princi-
only because of the familiarity with this term in everyday language. The term altruistic motivation will be used when referring specifically to the qualification of prosocial behavior as other oriented. Social psychologists have focused on prosocial behavior as a function of different contexts (Dovidio et al., 2006; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2010b). Different types of prosocial behavior vary in many ways, including their costs and rewards (nonaggression, cooperation, help, donating, volunteering, forgiving, sacrifice), duration (one-shot help in a lab experiment vs. long-term volunteering), the urgency of the situation and the spontaneity of the reaction, and the duplicable (e.g., blood donation) or nonduplicable (e.g., organ donation) character of the prosocial act. Distinctions can also be made as a
ples (i.e., principlism; Batson, 2010). Various concep- ON tual models of the latter exist, with the principles of TI care (Gilligan, 1982) and justice (Kohlberg, 1981) IA being at the heart of interpersonal morality. These C universal principles of interpersonal morality are SO complemented in traditional societies or among conS servatives by other kinds of moral principles that A place value on the group or sacred entities: loyalty, AL authority, and purity (Haidt & Graham, 2007). IC Developmental psychologists are interested in G the origin and development of prosociality (empaLO thy, moral principles, and moral judgment
or O reasoning) from infancy to late adulthood, with a H particular emphasis on the environmental factors YC that, in interaction with age and personality, influPS ence this development (Eisenberg, Fabes, & Spin-
N function of the type of target, the degree of proximA ity and familiarity with that target, and the correIC sponding chance for reciprocity: Kin-based, ER extended reciprocity-based, and universal altruism M imply distinct psychological processes. In addition, A prosocial behavior occurs not only at the individual © level but also at the group and organizational levels FS (Stьrmer & Snyder, 2010). O Personality psychologists are interested in indiO vidual differences that are stable across situations PR and throughout the life span. Indeed, some individD uals are higher overall than others in the broad perTE sonality dimension of agreeableness, which entails a C prosocial and communal orientation in interacting RE with others (Graziano & Tobin, 2009). Some are R also more likely than others to highly endorse the CO values of benevolence and universalism. Benevolence UN involves preservation and enhancement of the wel-
rad, 2006; Hoffman, 2000). These factors are mainly educational styles emphasizing warmth, modeling, socialization, formation of moral identity, and security in parentchild relations that facilitate trust. Adulthood brings a key developmental task, generativity for others and the world, which adds a proactive and prospective dimension to prosociality (de St. Aubin, McAdams, & Kim, 2004). Contrary to previous theorizations or common assumptions, research in developmental psychology has established that basic moral principles such as justice and care emerge in early childhood in a universal way. Furthermore, these principles seem to be autonomous with respect to religious teachings and socialization by parents (Turiel, 2006). Following developments in positive psychology, other researchers have recently operationalized prosocial constructs that are highly ideal and moral and,
fare of people with whom one is in frequent contact, to some extent, inspired by religious and spiritual
whereas universalism involves appreciation, toler-
traditions. These include compassion (Cassell, 2009)
ance, and protection of the welfare of all people as
and compassionate love (Fehr, Sprecher, & Under-
well as nature (Schwartz, 1992).
wood, 2009; Underwood, 2002). Compassionate
Across the many psychological fields that are
love refers to altruistic tendencies (other-oriented
interested in the interplay of emotions and cognitions feelings, beliefs, and acts) that are conscious, well
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Religion, Spirituality, and Altruism
motivated, and deliberate. Compassionate love
World War II into the early 21st century (see Saroglou,
includes (a) compassion for those who are suffering 2010; Saroglou et al., 2004, for meta-analyses; see
and (b) passionate attachment to the flourishing of also Francis, 2009).
other, possibly all people.
The associations between religious and prosocial
In conclusion, if one wants to understand how
measures, however, are typically modest in size, as
religion relates to, influences, or is influenced by,
if the prosociality of religious people was not as
prosociality, one actually needs to examine how reli- important as one might suspect on the basis of theo-
gion is connected with various prosocial personality traits, values, principles, emotions, behaviors, and motivations. These elements of prosociality, in turn, may vary considerably on the basis of contextual factors. Religion and Prosocial Personality: Traits, Values, and Emotions In recent decades, a growing body of evidence has demonstrated that people who are religious (intrinsic religion, beliefs, or practice) perceive themselves as being prosocial. The global personality dimensions of agreeableness (in the Five-Factor Model; for a meta-analysis, see Saroglou, 2010) and low
logical traditions and classic psychological theories. ON Examining then the "real" prosocial behavior of reliTI gious people, as the next section of this chapter will IA do, is a way to test the accuracy of such a link-- C although behavior is, of course, not a simple mirror SO of personality. Behavior varies importantly as a funcS tion of situational features, whereas personality A characteristics reflect tendencies shown across situaAL tions. The associations between religiousness and IC prosocial personality traits become greater when one G focuses on specific traits rather than global dimenLO sions. In addition, the association between religiousO ness and prosocial constructs becomes clearer when H one moves from adolescence and early adulthood YC to middle and late adulthood (for a review, see PS Saroglou, 2010).
N psychoticism (in Eysenck's model; for a review, A see Francis, 2009) are typical among religious indiIC viduals. These broad prosocial traits translate into ER more focused traits or dispositions, such as helpM ing (Batson et al., 1993), honesty (e.g., Saroglou, A Pichon, Trompette, Verschueren, & Dernelle, © 2005), forgiveness (McCullough & Worthington, FS 1999), gratitude (see Chapter 23 in this volume), O and generativity (Dillon, Wink, & Fay, 2003). Both O prosocial principles and emotions seem to be impliPR cated. Indeed, religious people tend to attribute high D importance to the value of benevolence (for a metaTE analysis, see Saroglou, Delpierre, & Dernelle, 2004) C and the moral principles of care and justice (Graham RE & Haidt, 2010). They also report high feelings of R empathy (e.g., Markstrom, Huey, Stiles, & Krause, CO 2010; Saroglou et al., 2005), compassion, and love UN(e.g., Smith, 2009). Interestingly, these prosociality
A modest but consistent link also exists between religion and social desirability (for a meta-analysis, see Sedikides & Gebauer, 2010). This finding raises questions about whether the results linking religion and prosocial tendencies reflect nothing more than conformity to social standards and expectations--or whether they might simply reflect the concern to relay a positive image to oneself or the researcher. When social desirability is controlled for, the strength of the link between religion and prosocial self-perception decreases; importantly, however, the link does not disappear. More important, several kinds of "others" (parents, teachers, siblings, friends, and colleagues) provide peer validation: They also perceive religious targets as being high in agreeableness, honesty, forgiveness, gratitude, and generativity (for a review, see Saroglou, 2010). Moreover, the idea that religious people are
traits, values, or emotional dispositions are typical
prosocial--and, in parallel, that atheists are low in
of religiosity not only among Christians (from
prosociality--seems to be intrinsic to the stereo-
which the majority of studies in psychology of reli- types regarding religious and atheist people (Harper,
gion derive) but also among Buddhists, Jews, and
2007; Lewis, 2001). Such perceptions are also part
Muslims; and they are present in both genders, in
of both believers' and nonbelievers' metastereotypes--
different ages, and in various cohorts from the
that is, their estimations of how they are perceived
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by the other group (nonbelievers and believers,
people with whom they are in close interaction and
respectively; Saroglou, Yzerbyt, & Kaschten, 2011). whose judgment is valued. They should be less
In sum, although modest in size, the association likely to behave prosocially toward unknown peo-
between individual religiousness and prosocial dis- ple with whom there is little or no chance for
positions emerges consistently across studies, con- reciprocity--and certainly not toward individuals
texts (countries, religions, ages, genders), and the
who, like out-group members
, threaten their reli-
psychological dimensions concerned (traits, values, gious values. Second, with the exception of sacrifi-
emotions). Prosociality seems to be a key characteristic of religious personality, possibly one of its universals. Religious people perceive themselves, are perceived by others, feel, think and value things in a way that emphasizes the importance of others' interests and needs as well as social cohesion. Religion and Limited Prosocial Behavior as a Function of Contextual Factors There is some correspondence between religious personality (and related values and emotions) and prosocial behavior. The picture, however, is complex. As will be detailed in the following section, religious prosociality, like prosocial behavior in gen-
cial acts made at critical moments in life (especially ON by heroic figures and saints), religiosity in everyday TI life should predict minimal prosociality. This term IA refers to behaviors that are not necessarily of high C cost but hold at least some importance if one wants SO to perceive oneself and be perceived by others as S moral (see also Batson et al., 1993). A Several studies confirm that religious prosociality AL is limited to personally known targets and does not IC extend to unknown people and those who threaten G religious values. These studies used the strategy of LO presenting the same series of hypothetical situations O with versions (conditions) in which the target in H need varied in proximity. Among Belgian students, YC religiosity was positively related to the willingness PS to help acquaintances and relatives (r = .38) but was
N eral, varies as a function of several factors: nature of A the behavior, type of target, costs and benefits, comIC peting principles, salience of religious norms, and ER type of motivation. Moreover, beyond general, per-
totally unrelated to the willingness to help unknown targets in the exact same situations (r = -.01) (S aroglou et al., 2005, Study 2). Similarly, among Polish students, religiosity predicted willingness to
M sonal religiosity (intrinsic religion, religious beliefs A and practices), specific dimensions, such as funda© mentalism, spirituality, and religion-as-quest, have FS been tied to significant variations in the extent and O nature of prosocial behavior. PRO Limited and Minimal Religious D Prosociality: Targets and Costs TE According to Saroglou et al. (2005; see also SaroC glou, 2006a), one reason why the link between reliRE giosity and prosocial personality is modest is that R religious prosociality is not unconditional; instead, CO it seems to be limited in several ways. First, religious UN prosociality is limited as a function of contextual
help friends in need (r = .46) but was unrelated to willingness to help unknown targets with the same needs (r = .03; Blogowska & Saroglou, 2011, Study 2). Another study showed that Polish religious students were willing to help a confederate pass an exam (r = .36) but not if the confederate was a feminist (r = -.02; Blogowska & Saroglou, 2011, Study 1). In the United States, Batson et al. (1993) reviewed studies suggesting that (intrinsic) religiosity predicts prosocial behavior; however, the target was always an in-group member such as another student, a blind student, or a coreligionist. Intentions may indicate real behavior. In another study, the more religious students were, the more
features, which include proximity and familiarity
likely they were to help an older student with her
with the target. Religious people value cohesion in master's thesis by immediately dedicating 30 min to
interpersonal relationships, need social approval,
filling out a questionnaire (Blogowska, Lambert, &
and support the existence of in-group versus out-
Saroglou, 2012). Other studies confirm the idea of at
group barriers. Religious people should thus show
least minimal (in standards, extent, and resources to
prosociality toward relatives, acquaintances, and
invest) religious prosociality, such as nonaggression.
08/06/12 8:57 PM
Religion, Spirituality, and Altruism
For instance, using a projective measure (the
(b) allocated money to a disruptive confederate
Rosenzweig Frustration Test), Saroglou et al. (2005, (Greer, Berman, Varan, Bobrycki, & Watson, 2005),
Study 1) found that religious participants tended to or (c) administered "shocks" to a provocative (but
spontaneously provide few aggressive responses
fictitious) opponent (Greer et al., 2005; Leach,
when hypothetically interacting with frustrating
Berman, & Eubanks, 2008).
others. Similarly, analyses of large international data
sets from European countries show that individual Religious Prosociality Limited by
religiosity is neither positively nor negatively related to attitudes toward immigrants (Strabac & Listhaug, 2008). It protects religious people, however, who have the tendency to vote in favor of conservative right-wing parties, from voting for extreme rightwing parties, which are prone to violence and antiimmigrant hostility (Arzheimer & Carter, 2009). In another study, religious Israeli children were evaluated by their peers as using less aggressive behavior and victimization than their secular counterparts (Landau, Bjцrkqvist, Lagerspetz, Цsterman, & Gideon, 2002). Religious people also seem to be immune to the aggressive consequences of the activation of mortality salience (Norenzayan, Dar- Nimrod, Hansen, & Proulx, 2009). Finally, the link between religion and low aggression is also sup-
Competing Principles ON There may be another explanation, besides that of TI the high cost, for this scarcity of behavioral confirIA mation of religious forgiveness. In fact, together C with prosocial ideals, religion also promotes other SO aspects of moral integrity (Graham & Haidt, 2010). S It can provide a sense of personal coherence, which A seems to correspond to religious people's need for AL order and closure instead of uncertainty and ambiIC guity (Saroglou, 2002). Thus, not surprisingly, G in some religions, effective forgiveness seems to LO depend on other principles. For instance, for Jews, O some offenses are unforgivable (Cohen, Malka, H Rozin, & Cherfas, 2006). Muslims are particularly YC sensitive to the offender's apologies and demonstraPS tions of repentance, and they thus tend to endorse
N ported at the community and institutional level. A Analyzing violent crime rates in rural areas in the IC United States, Lee (2006) found that rates of rural ER violence are lower where there are more churches
less unconditional forgiveness than Christians (M ullet & Azar, 2009). More generally, acting prosocially with regard to several targets in need may be in conflict with other
M per capita, after accounting for the effects of several A important control variables
. © Although aggression is not the mere opposite of FS prosociality, nonaggression can be seen as minimal O prosociality. Forgiving an offender, in contrast, may O demand greater personal effort and the investment PR of more psychological resources than simply helping D or not aggressing. In line with the idea of religious TE minimal and no-high-cost prosociality, the existing C evidence suggests that religious people, who conRE stantly value and report practicing forgiveness, do R not really differ from their nonreligious counterparts CO when it comes to real behavior (McCullough & UNWorthington, 1999). In several recent studies, par-
principles and beliefs that religious people endorse. For instance, people who held orthodox religious beliefs were found to be unwilling to help homeless or illegal immigrants, and this finding was partially explained by participants' just-world beliefs--beliefs that "they deserve what they got" (Pichon & Saroglou, 2009; for similar findings on fundamentalists' low helping of unemployed people who are gay or single mothers, see also Jackson & Esses, 1997). In another study focusing on the moral conflict between abstract, impersonal deontology (e.g., honesty, loyalty) and interpersonal care (e.g., helping, saving another person's life), religious priming made people high in authoritarianism led to a preference
ticipants' religiosity turned out to be unrelated to
for the respect of abstract deontology despite the
behavioral forgiveness, measured as low retaliation. detrimental consequences for the other person
This was the case when participants (a) adminis-
(Van Pachterbeke, Freyer, & Saroglou, 2011).
tered questions varying in difficulty to a confederate
We can interpret in a similar way (i.e., abstract
who allegedly had given them a negative evaluation deontology limits care) several studies showing reli-
(Saroglou, Corneille, & Van Cappellen, 2009),
gious people's uneasiness to apply the sinnersin
08/06/12 8:57 PM
distinction: "Love the sinner, hate the sin." Not only Ruffle & Sosis, 2007). Moreover, participants in
were intrinsically religious people less willing to
general (independently of their religiousness)
help a gay confederate participate in a gay rally, but increase trust and cooperation when they interact
also they were less willing to help this target visit his with a religious partner, as found in Germany
or her grandparents (Batson, Floyd, Meyer, &
(Tan & Vogel, 2008), Belgium (De Dreu, Yzerbyt, &
Winner, 1999). And although religiosity relates
Leyens, 1995), and Bangladesh (Johansson-Stenman,
to the endorsement of the sinnersin distinction,
Mahmud, & Martinsson, 2009).
it predicts negative attitudes toward both homosexual behavior and homosexual persons (Veenvliet, 2008). In a more fundamental way, as argued elsewhere (Saroglou, 2010), the religious personality disposition for prosociality (high Agreeableness) is not unlimited but restricted by another important personality dimension that is also systematically related to religion: conscientiousness. Conscientiousness implies order, self-control, and dutifulness. In fact, altruism, care, and justice, which are aspects of interpersonal morality, are not the only moral concerns of religion. Religion is also concerned with principles of authority, loyalty, and purity that imply duties and obligations to oneself, to society, or to transcendent entities (Graham & Haidt, 2010).
Cooperation, helping, forgiveness, and other ON interpersonal prosocial behaviors have been the TI main focus of psychological research on prosocialIA ity. More often, sociologists have studied volunteerC ing and charitable donations. On the basis of SO multilevel analyses of the World Values Survey data S from 53 countries (mostly Christian populations), A Ruiter and De Graaf (2006; see also Ruiter & De AL Graaf, 2010) found that religious attendance at the IC individual level predicts higher rates of volunteerG ing for both religious and secular organizations. LO The (higher) level of religiousness of the country O has an additive positive effect on volunteering. H Interestingly, the greater volunteering of religious YC compared with nonreligious participants becomes PS clearer in secular national contexts. Protestantism
N Morality having to do with purity and sexuality A seems even more strongly linked to religious attenIC dance than interpersonal morality (Weeden, Cohen, & ER Kenrick, 2008). Similarly, organ donation, which is
implies stronger effects on volunteering. Analyzing data from 29 nations, P.-Y. Lam (2006) found that Protestants, more oriented to the extrafamilial social world, are more likely than Catholics, who
M a typical altruistic act and is supported by the major A religious institutions, does not follow the general © positive religiondonation link (e.g., Cornwall, FS Perry, Louw, & Stronger, 2012; W. A. Lam & O McCullough, 2000; Stephenson et al., 2008), possiO bly because of conflicting religious views
having to PR do with purity, integrity, and related fears of disgust D and contamination. The same could be true for TE blood donation (Gillum & Masters, 2010). REC Average-Level Religious Prosociality: R Cooperation, Volunteering, and Donating CO Several studies in recent years have examined UN whether religiousness predicted behaviors of coop-
are more family oriented, to be members of voluntary associations; this difference was found at both the individual and the country levels. Furthermore, across dozens of countries from all continents, it is institutional, broad societal collectivism and not familism (in-group collectivism) that predicts participation in voluntary organizations, including religious organizations
, an effect that is more typical of countries of Protestant tradition (Realo, Allik, & Greenfield, 2008). Bekkers and Wiepking (2007; see also Lincoln, Morrissey, & Mundey, 2008) made an extensive review of studies on charitable donations. Among other results, they found that individual religiosity
eration during lab experiments that used different
(affiliation and especially church attendance) and
versions of economic games. When studies provided parents' religiosity predicted both religious and sec-
significant results, religious participants showed
ular philanthropy. Contexts implying solicitation
higher cooperation or generosity in the United
(e.g., religious congregations) heightened the gener-
States (Anderson & Mellor, 2009), India (Muslim
osity of religious individuals. Differences in solicita-
students; Ahmed, 2009), and Israel (Jewish kibbutzim; tion strategies may explain why, in several countries,
08/06/12 8:57 PM
Religion, Spirituality, and Altruism
Protestants seem to give more than Catholics.
a meta-analysis, see Whitley, 2009). Going a step
(Again, note that most studies sampled Christian
further, Blogowska and Saroglou (2011, 2012)
populations.) People holding strongly orthodox
hypothesized that fundamentalism may show some
beliefs were high in religious charity, an effect due prosocial tendencies that are typical of mere religios-
to church attendance rather than the orthodox
ity. Across four studies in two European countries,
beliefs themselves, but they were not necessarily
these authors found that people scoring high on
high in nonreligious charity. Interestingly, the role fundamentalism showed negative attitudes toward
of religious attendance and related solicitation on increased donations has been confirmed among adherents of Eastern religions in Asia (Chang, 2006). To some extent, religious giving may be a relatively easy way to fulfill one's own religious obligations. Interesting findings, diverging from those of many other studies, have emerged from an economist's study (Gruber, 2004). This study found that greater levels of religious giving led to lower levels of religious participation, suggesting that religious giving and participation may be substitutes for one another. From Coalitional Fundamentalism to Universal Spirituality An important body of research has demonstrated
value-threatening individuals and were not necessar- ON ily willing to help unknown targets; fundamentalism TI thus paralleled authoritarianism. Yet the same high IA scorers on fundamentalism were also prone to help C and show prosocial tendencies toward acquaintances SO (friends and colleagues) or even toward unknown S and threatening (e.g., atheist) targets after exposure A to a positive religious text; in this context, fundaAL mentalists were behaving similarly to other people IC with high personal religiosity scores--and unlike G authoritarians. LO Taken as a whole, these studies suggest that funO damentalists' authoritarianism is, to some extent, H responsible--statistically speaking--for prejudice YC and violence. Fundamentalists' religiosity is also PS responsible for in-group prosociality, however. Fun-
N that some religious dimensions, but not others, are A associated with prejudice and violence. For instance, IC in a survey of six religions in six nations as well as ER two surveys of Palestinians, regular attendance at M religious services
positively predicted support of A religious suicide and out-group hostility, but regular © prayer did not (Ginges, Hansen, & Norenzayan, FS 2009). Other work has demonstrated that religious O fundamentalism--rather than personal, intrinsic O religiosity--predicts greater prejudice toward people PR who differ on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientaD tion, religious affiliation, or convictions (Hunsberger & TE Jackson, 2005). C Nevertheless, the religious dimension of fundaRE mentalism or orthodoxy seems to attenuate the R aggressive character of the authoritarian structure CO typical of conservative (orthodox) and dogmatic UN(fundamentalist) religiosity. Indeed, the links
damentalism would seem to accentuate the general coalitional aspect of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. More precisely, fundamentalism combines in-group favoritism and prosociality, typical of common religiosity, and out-group derogation, typical of authoritarianism. Attitudes toward out-group members may vary from negative (e.g., derogation, discrimination, and prejudice) to positive (e.g., tolerance, Equal Treatment
, and preferential over in-group treatment). On the positive pole of the continuum, one can find open-minded religious and spiritual dimensions. This is the case with spirituality, which Piedmont (2007) has framed in terms of connectedness (a sense of connection and commitment to others and humanity as a whole) and universalism (a belief in the unity and purpose of life), be it within or outside a context of a specific religious tradition. Open-
between fundamentalism (or orthodoxy) and dero- minded thinking also characterizes religion-as-quest,
gation, discrimination, and prejudice repeatedly have which is the religious attitude defined by valuing
been found to be mediated by right-wing authoritari- doubt, self-criticism, and openness to the possibility
anism (Rowatt, Johnson, LaBouff, & Gonzalez, in
of change (Batson et al., 1993).
press). An exception may be homophobia, which
The importance attributed to spirituality in one's
may depend rather directly on religious morality (for personal life reflects several features contrary to
08/06/12 8:57 PM
traditional religiosity, including (a) universalism
Religious donation seems to be an exception to this
and not only benevolence in value hierarchies
pattern, however, as religious attendance plays an
(Saroglou & Muсoz-Garcнa, 2008), (b) willingness important role in this context.
to help unknown rather than only known people
(Saroglou et al., 2005, Study 2), and (c) citizen-ofthe-world identity and not only ethnic and national
Causal Directions and Processes
identities (Saroglou & Cohen, in press). People
Is there a causal relationship between religion and
characterized by relativism in their beliefs express willingness to help individuals in need, such as immigrants and homeless people--a tendency partially mediated by a belief in ultimate justice (Pichon & Saroglou, 2009). In some studies, spirituality relates even more clearly to compassionate love of strangers and humanity than to compassionate love of close others (Sprecher & Fehr, 2005). Moreover, experiments by Batson and collaborators have shown that religious people with high scores on quest orientation do not discriminate between those who violate norms (gay, antigay, fundamentalists) and "neutral" individuals in general helping contexts. They are, however, less willing to help an intolerant individual (e.g., an antigay, a fundamentalist) if it involves participation in activities
prosociality? What may be the explanatory psycho- ON logical processes beside this relationship? The folTI lowing sections will address these questions. CIA Causal Directions SO Until now, the reviewed studies have measured reliS gion as an individual-difference construct and invesA tigated correlational links of religiousness and its AL different forms with prosocial attitudes or behaviors, IC alone or as a function of contexts varying across G experimental conditions. Yet the question remains LO as to whether there are causal links between religion O (not only individual religiousness) and prosociality, H and what the directions of these links may be. YC Promising experiments in recent years have proPS vided evidence in favor of the more intuitive causal
N promoting intolerance (Batson, Denton, & VollA mecke, 2008; Batson et al., 1999; Batson, Eidelman, IC Higley, & Russell, 2001). In addition, when they act ER prosocially, people high in quest seem to be more
direction that goes from religion to prosociality. Most of these experiments used priming techniques. Many priming studies have established the powerfulness of mental representations, which, even when
M intrinsically motivated by altruism than by self- A concerns. They tend to be sensitive to the needs © expressed by the suffering individual, and they are FS willing to help even if the cost is high and the social O pressure low (Batson et al., 1993). O In sum, religion seems to be drawn by two oppoPR sitional forces coming from two distinct compoD nents. Its coalitional dimension (community and TE shared normative beliefs and practices) emphasizes C the in-group versus out-group barriers, thereby limRE iting the extent of prosociality apparently inherent R in the very nature of religion. Yet, its spiritual (devoCO tional, mystical) dimension, reflected in the connecUN tion with the divine or transcendence in general,
activated outside participants' conscious awareness
, increase the odds of related behaviors. For instance, briefly holding a cup of hot coffee (vs. a cup of ice-cold coffee) increases the perception of a target as being warm, generous, or caring (Williams & Bargh, 2008). Being exposed for milliseconds--thus, nonconsciously--to words related to the elderly stereotype causes participants to subsequently walk slower (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996). Introducing religious words in a scrambled test increased people's accessibility of prosocial concepts (Pichon, Boccato, & Saroglou, 2007, Study 2) as well as the tendency to be more generous, as measured by the allocation of more money to a
points to a universal altruistic prosociality. Prayer, hypothetical confederate in a one-shot anonymous
beliefs, or measures of personal, intrinsic religious- dictator game (Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007; see
ness often seem to predominate over measures of
also Ahmed & Salas, 2011). Depicting a target in
religious attendance and affiliation in terms of pre- need (homeless) in front of a church instead of a
dicting compassionate values, feelings, and behav- secular building increased participants' willingness
iors (e.g., Markstrom et al., 2010; Smith, 2009).
to help this target (Pichon & Saroglou, 2009).
08/06/12 8:57 PM
Religion, Spirituality, and Altruism
Subliminal exposure to religious words has been
experiment, Van Cappellen and Saroglou (2010)
shown to increase (a) participants' willingness to
found that watching a video praising charity
volunteer to distribute pamphlets for a charity
increased participants' reported spirituality in com-
(Pichon et al., 2007, Study 1); (b) "forgiveness,"
parison with a humor-inducing video or a neutral
as indicated by participants being more prone to
video. Moreover, as argued elsewhere (Saroglou,
ask easy rather than difficult questions
to a hypo-
2010), studies on personality and individual reli-
thetical confederate who had allegedly provided
giousness suggest that people with basic personalitynegative feedback
(Saroglou et al., 2009, Study 2); and (c) cooperation, measured in a one-trial dictator game (Preston & Ritter, 2010, Study 1). Finally, in a series of three experiments prayer reduced anger and aggression after a provocation (Bremner, Koole, & Bushman, 2011). Interestingly, in those studies, religious concepts worked to activate prosocial concepts, intentions, and behaviors for all participants, both religious and nonreligious. The extent of prosociality activated by religious concepts is not unlimited, however. In all of these experiments, the targets were people in need or anonymous confederates. But when the targets are out-group members (other ethnicity or race), religious priming is not found to increase prosociality (Pichon & Saroglou, 2009, willingness to
tendencies to be agreeable (and also conscientious) ON are more prone to remain or become religious TI throughout the life span. Several longitudinal studIA ies (e.g., McCullough, Tsang, & Brion, 2003; Wink, C Ciciolla, Dillon, & Tracy, 2007) show that both SO baseline personality and personality changes influS ence religiousness and changes in religiousness A years, if not decades, later. People with dispositions AL to be agreeable--across situations and time--may be IC more attracted by cultural system
s, like religion, G that promote altruistic values, beliefs, and rituals LO corresponding to and reinforcing agreeableness O (Saroglou, 2010). H A complementary perspective is that individual YC differences on religiousness and prosocial or antisoPS cial behavior, in part, may be outcomes of the same
N help; Preston & Ritter, 2010, Study 1, cooperation). A In fact, religious priming can actually lead to inIC group over out-group preference (Preston & Ritter, ER 2010, Study 2, charity donation) or even increase M covert racial prejudice (M. K. Johnson, Rowatt, & A LaBouff, 2010) and negative attitudes toward vari© ous outgroups (LaBouff, Rowatt, Johnson, & Finkle, FS 2012). It may also be that not all religious primes O have the same effects (Preston, Ritter, & HermanO dez, 2010). For instance, priming "synagogue" was PR found to increase Israeli settlers' endorsement of a D suicide attack against Palestinians, whereas priming TE "prayer" decreased endorsement of such an attack C (Ginges et al., 2009, Study 3). Similarly, priming RE "God" instead of "religion" was found to enhance R cooperation with and charity toward an out-group CO in another set of studies (Preston & Ritter, 2010, UNStudies 1 and 2).
causes. In a study on adult male twins, Koenig, McGue, Krueger, and Bouchard (2007) found that the variance shared between (retrospective and current) religiousness and the adult antisocial or prosocial behavior (self-reported) was due to both genetic and shared environmental influences. Finally, personality and genetic dispositions may moderate the role of religion on altruism (Sasaki et al., 2011). Processes What are the psychological mechanisms explaining how religion relates to and influences prosociality? Unfortunately, there is almost no research on the psychological mediators of the religionprosociality relation. There is indirect evidence suggesting multiple possible processes, however, as religion relates or leads to most of the psychological factors known to play a role in building and promoting
Yet the opposite causal direction that goes from prosociality.
prosociality to religion is not to be excluded. At the
moment, there is only indirect evidence in favor
Other-oriented emotions, principles, and rela-
of this alternative and possibly complementary
tional experiences. As mentioned in this chapter,
pathway--one that concerns religion as a whole
religion relates to both emotional (empathy and
as well as individual religiousness. In a recent
other moral emotions) and cognitiveappreciative
08/06/12 8:57 PM
dimensions (prosocial values, reasoning, and social additional mechanism that contributes to a religious
norms) related to prosocial behavior, especially
prosociality. Secure attachment is known to relate to
when the latter is altruistically motivated. This
both prosocial concerns and behaviors (Mikulincer &
implies that one motivation of religious prosocial-
Shaver, 2010a) and to religiosity through the life
ity can be other-oriented concerns and, possibly,
span, especially a socialization-based religiosity (see
internalization of prosocial values and teachings.
Chapter 7 in this volume). Secure attachment has
These values are likely to come from parental edu-
been found to consolidate the effects of gratitude on
cation and broader socialization. There is evidence ON for the intergenerational transmission of volunteerTI ing and charity by religious parents (Caputo, 2009; IA Wilhelm, Brown, Rooney, & Steinberg, 2008) and of C religion by generous parents (Peterson, 2006). The SO religionempathy link may explain why religiousS ness is found only occasionally to predict cooperaA tion in prisoner's dilemma and dictator games (in AL cases in which the partner is not in need), whereas it IC quite consistently predicts volunteering and donatG ing for targets in need. LO Imitation of prosocial parents and peers--and, O more generally, role modeling--is another imporH tant mechanism that contributes to the development YC of empathy and altruism (Eisenberg et al., 2006). PS Religion's exemplary figures are saints and holy figN ures who, like heroes, show other-oriented, often A sacrificial altruism. Such altruism is a major characIC teristic of the personalities of heroes and saints, as ER evidenced by self-reported, peer-reported, archival, M and interview-based data (Saroglou, 2006b; Walker, A Frimer, & Dunlop, 2010). Saints demonstrate to © others that altruism, an a priori risky behavior in FS interpersonal relations, is an ideal that can be realisO tic (James, 1902/1985). More generally, religious O texts and institutions provide moral exemplars that PR may serve for role identification (Sundйn, 1959) and D spiritual modeling at many levels, including interTE personally oriented virtues (see Chapter 10 in this C volume). This may be particularly important in adoRE lescence for reasons focused on moral development R and identity. CO A specific ingredient of religious prosociality, UN when motivated by other-oriented concerns, may be
prosocial behavior, whereas insecure attachment undermines these effects (Mikulincer & Shaver, 2010a). Self-control and self-enhancement. A series of other processes that may underlie the religion prosociality link can be classified as self-oriented, or at least as aiming to increase self-control or self-enhancement. This may be egoistic in the case that one chooses the self at the detriment of the others; but in some cases, self-control and selfenhancement concerns also serve other-oriented goals. Religion aims to satisfy needs for self-control at the emotional, cognitive, and motivational levels (see Chapter 6 in this volume). Religion may help to meet needs for self-enhancement, which is the motivation to see oneself favorably in terms of culturally valued characteristics (Sedikides & Gebauer, 2010). Compassionate and self-image goals seem to coexist within religion and spirituality (Crocker & Canevello, 2008). In addition, low impulsivity as a function of religiosity, which seems to be a consistent finding across studies (Saroglou, 2010), may be responsible for the role of religion in reducing antisocial behavior. More generally, prosocial behavior demands effort, self-regulation, and energy (Gailliot, 2010). Religion's enhancement of self-control may thus facilitate prosociality. Similar self-control-related concerns, centering on the need for social cohesion, may at least partly explain why religion primarily leads to minimal prosociality (e.g., low aggression) and philanthropy toward those in need, but it may not necessarily lead to universal and unlimited love,
the emotion of gratitude (see Chapter 23 in this vol- especially toward out-groups and people perceived
ume). In many religions, compassion and love are
as threats to religious values. The latter forms of
conceptualized as a way to pass on to others the
prosociality introduce complexity, disorder, and
compassion and love received from the divine.
Moreover, as previously suggested (Saroglou et al.,
Self-enhancement covers psychological processes
2005, Study 2), secure attachment may be an
having to do with (a) self-esteem and positive
08/06/12 8:57 PM
Religion, Spirituality, and Altruism
self-image, (b) positive reputation and social
one's willingness to behave in a prosocial manner
approval, and (c) symbolic rewards. Each of these
(Aquino, Freeman, Reed, Lim, & Felps, 2009).
dimensions is related to general religiosity and
More generally, religious priming has been found
seems to contribute to a prosociality limited by con- to activate moral integrity by increasing honesty
cerns for positive self-image (Batson et al., 1993),
(Randolph-Seng & Nielsen, 2007) and decreasing
social reputation (Norenzayan & Shariff, 2008), or hypocrisy (Carpenter & Marshall, 2009).
afterlife-related rewards (Tao & Yeh, 2007).
Theorists who adopt an evolutionary approach to ON religious prosociality point out the role religion has TI played in human evolution in enhancing reputaIA tion, trust, and cooperation within extended social C groups (e.g., Norenzayan & Shariff, 2008). A SO reputation-based religious prosociality has been S facilitated by the belief in an omniscient supernatuA ral being that controls human actions and thoughts AL and punishes the cheaters of the reciprocity norms IC (D. D. P. Johnson & Bering, 2006; D. D. P. Johnson G & Kruger, 2004). It has been facilitated by religious LO collective rituals that, although costly, constitute O opportunities to experience emotions of connectedH ness (Wiltermuth & Heath, 2009). Rituals may also YC provide opportunities to present oneself and be perPS ceived by others as worthy of trust and cooperation N (Sosis & Alcorta, 2003) or to enhance followers' A commitment to the group's ideology and in-group IC cooperation (Henrich, 2009). Such mechanisms ER obviously have facilitated the extension from a M kinship-based altruism to altruism at the level of A culture. Cultural altruism, which is found in large © and complex human societies, involves reciprocity FS between unrelated partners that can be reinforced by O beliefs, symbols, moral gods, and norms of fairness O of the world religions (Batson, 1983; Henrich et al., PR 2010; Roes & Raymond, 2003; Stark, 2001). TED Moral identity. Prosocial behavior also can be C based on principlism, which is the motivation to RE act in order to be moral and to conform with one's R own moral identity and principles (Batson, 2010). CO It is unclear whether principlistic prosociality UNshould be considered other oriented or self ori-
Following sources of authority. Finally, moral decisions and behaviors, including those that are prosocial, may result from either an autonomous internalization of moral values or from a mere conformity to social standards and submission to various sources of authority. People with individual dispositions for submissiveness may be particularly sensitive to religion's power to induce behaviors, moral or immoral, through submission. In a series of three experiments, Saroglou and collaborators found that among people with dispositional submissiveness, religious words (indeed, the same that previously were found to activate volunteering; Pichon et al., 2007) also (a) activated submissionrelated concepts, (b) increased the odds of showing behavioral retaliation when requested by the experimenter, and (c) increased conformity to informational influence exerted by anonymous others (Saroglou et al., 2009, Studies 1 and 2; Van Cappellen, Corneille, Cols, & Saroglou, 2011). Religious texts are highly authoritative for religious people. Depending on the compassionate versus violent nature of the religious text to which participants were exposed, religious fundamentalists showed prosocial (or decreased antisocial) tendencies versus antisocial attitudes, respectively (Blogowska & Saroglou, 2012; Rothschild, Abdollahib, & Pyszczynski, 2009). Aggression after exposure to a violent religious text was also found to occur for participants in general, and more strongly for the religious (Bushman, Ridge, Das, Key, & Busath, 2007). Responsiveness to an appeal for charity was found to be higher among religious, compared with nonreligious, people--but only on
ented: Is doing the right thing primarily important Sundays after worship, not during the weekdays
and beneficial for others or the self? Nevertheless, (Malhotra, 2010). Religious teachings and rituals
the role of principlism may be important to
may serve as an arousal of prosociality. Experimen-
understand religious prosociality. For instance,
tal induction of awe was found to lead religious
priming people with the Ten Commandments
people to express feelings of oneness with others
activates moral self-schemas, which increase
(Van Cappellen & Saroglou, 2011).
08/06/12 8:57 PM
out-group prejudice and derogation. On the con-
Religious prosociality is not a myth. The partial discrepancy, in religious people, between self-
trary, religion's spiritual, devotional, and self- reflective dimension pushes for an extended
perceptions as being prosocial and real behavior seems to reflect complex underlying psychological processes rather than simple moral hypocrisy (as suspected in the past). Prosociality exists--not only N in religious people's minds--as an important key IO part of religious people's personality and related T aspirations, values, moral principles, and emotions. IA Yet, common religious prosocial behavior does seem OC to be largely limited to known people and in-group SS members. It does not appear to be universal in terms A of being extended to unknown people and those L who threaten religious values. Religious prosociality CA also seems to be conditional rather than uncondiI tional, depending on other possibly conflicting prinOG ciples, beliefs, and concerns. It tends to be minimal L and of low or average cost (e.g., nonaggression, volHO unteering, cooperation, conditional help) rather C than highly costly (e.g., forgiveness, sacrifice), and it SY may need some arousal (i.e., activation of religious P concepts, norms, and emotions) to be better maniN fested. Religious prosociality often appears to be CA motivated by concerns for positive self-perception, RI social reputation, and reciprocity; however, otherE oriented emotions, values, and family and socializaM tion experiences seem to also play a role. A In terms of a link between religion and prosocialS © ity, evidence exists for both causal directions. People F with prosocial personality predispositions, for which OO both genetic and environmental influences are R responsible, are attracted by religion's norms, symP bols, and rituals emphasizing altruism and harmony. ED In turn, religion can activate--even subliminally-- CT prosocial ideas, and it enhances altruism in a rather E universal way (i.e., among both the religious and RR nonreligious). There is also evidence to suggest that O sacrificial altruistic behaviors are present in the lives C of saints and heroes and are motivated, among othUN ers, by religious reasons. In fact, religion seems to operate in the middle of two tendencies exerting opposite influences. Its coalitional dimension pushes for strong in- versus out-group barriers, which, in the context of fundamentalism and conservative religion, can facilitate
altruism, which possibly may be universal and motivated by other-oriented concerns. Several differences in prosociality between religions or religious denominations can be explained as reflecting the way religiosity, as experienced in a specific context, is more focused on spiritual (self-transcendent) concerns versus those that are more coalitional. Charity for those in need, helping in-group members, and reciprocity between people worthy of trust are prosocial tendencies that are present across religions (e.g., Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims). Competing principles having to do with other norms, conservative morality, just-world beliefs, or out-group avoidance may limit prosociality in traditional religious contexts. Trust in cooperation and social collectivism is more evident among Protestant individuals and nations. In sum, different aspects of religion are linked with different levels of the process going from a kinship-based altruism to an extended cultural altruism, both at the individual and the collective levels. Galen (2012) conducted a critical review of the empirical research and concluded that religious prosociality is simply a stereotype, mere ingroup favoritism, and possibly even a myth; in his view, no real, causal effects of religion on prosociality exist. Although Galen's review addressed very interesting issues, his conclusion seems excessive and more provocative than well justified (Saroglou, 2012). Understanding the complex ways in which religion, spirituality, and altruism are interconnected has several important implications. These implications are relevant not only for scholars of different fields but also for different kinds of practitioners working, for instance, in counseling, psychotherapy, training of ministers, and interfaith dialogue. Three issues that seem the most intriguing or important will be discussed in this section. A broad question that arises is how altruism works in a nonreligious, including atheist, context. This is an area for which studies are needed. The following are just a few ideas that may be worth investigating. On average, nonbelievers seem to score lower than believers on prosocial personality
08/06/12 8:57 PM
Religion, Spirituality, and Altruism
dispositions (at least if the reported correlations
superordinate broader in-group, such as "we are all
between religiosity and prosocial traits are linear).
children of God") that can be selectively used to
This does not mean, however, that nonbelievers
encourage prosociality and tolerance. Religious
should necessarily show low levels of empathy, pro- authorities' or psychotherapists' selection of altruis-
social moral reasoning, and prosocial behavior.
tic and encompassing out-group material may have
Probably, the role of environment, socialization, and beneficial effects for interpersonal, intergroup, and
personal effort is stronger among nonbelievers when interreligious relations. Recategorization under a
acting prosocially, because they may be less "naturally" agreeable (in terms of genetic predisposition). Moreover, prosociality within religion presents the advantage of a powerful combination of nonreligious (secular) and religious sources (beliefs, practices, community). Furthermore, the mutual reinforcement between emotional, role-modeling, principlistic, and social components integrated into a coherent religious set can reasonably be expected to increase the motivational force to act prosocially. On the other hand, there are two limitations in religious prosociality that may constitute advantages within a nonreligious context. First, religious and conservative moral concerns for principles such as authority, loyalty, and purity do not only extend the sphere of morality beyond the interpersonal princi-
broader in-group membership not only reduces ON intergroup prejudice but also enhances intergroup TI altruism (Dovidio, Gaertner, Shnabel, Saguy, & IA Johnson, 2010). C Finally, an important psychological implication SO of altruism in a religious context is that prosocial S attitudes and behaviors contribute to the agent's A well-being (Krause, 2007; Post, 2007). Volunteering AL across the life span improves psychological wellIC being because it leads people to develop other- G oriented values, motives, and a sense of self that LO leads them to believe that they matter to others in O the social world (Piliavin, 2010). There is suggesH tive, cross-sectional, evidence that compassionate YC attitudes mediate the link between religiosity and PS indicators of well-being, an effect found to be stron-
N ples of care and justice, as initially argued (Haidt & A Graham, 2007). They also limit care, when in conIC flict with it (Van Pachterbeke et al., 2011). Care and ER justice among nonconservatives and the nonreli-
ger than that of Social Support
(Steffen & Masters, 2005; for a nonlaboratory intervention study, see also Oman, Thoresen, & Hedberg, 2010). In conclusion, altruism is an important, but obvi-
M gious thus may be "freer" from other constraints. A Not surprisingly therefore, feelings of compassion © seem more powerful among less religious people in FS leading to generosity (Saslow et al., 2012). Second, O although religiousness may be compatible with O internalization of values and autonomous thinking, PR it presents an overall discomfort with the value of D autonomy, even among young generations (for a TE meta-analysis, see Saroglou et al., 2004). Also, as C detailed in this chapter, religion can activate conforRE mity among people with dispositional submissiveR ness. Nonreligious prosociality thus may be, as far as CO it exists, more autonomous and intrinsic than reliUNgious prosociality. Experts and practitioners may be interested in
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