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Study Says Atheists Are Nicer And Fairer Towards Christians, Not Vice Versa

Study Says Atheists Are Nicer And Fairer Towards Christians, Not Vice Versa

Researchers at Ohio University found that atheists acted more fairly and were more generous towards Christians than the other way round.

There is a general belief that people who are more religious act morally and fairly towards other people, but a recent study has proven otherwise. Researchers at Ohio University found that atheists acted more fairly and were more generous towards Christians than the other way round. While taking part in an experiment that was a part of the study, Christians tended to exhibit an in-group bias. The experiment, designed on the lines of a 'dictators game', is often used in economic and social psychology studies. For the study, a participant (the "Proposer" ) had to share a monetary reward with another person (the "Responder") who could only passively accept what was offered.



 

 

The main aim of the study was to demonstrate how groups tended to be biased in-group. It was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that included as many as 205 participants in the pilot study where people believed atheists would treat Christians unfairly. But, in three more experiments, with all U.S. residents of nearly 1,200 participants, it was concluded that Christians, in fact, treated atheists unfairly. 



 

 

According to PsyPost, Colleen Cowgill, a Ph.D student at the university and primary author of the study, said, “The rise of the so-called ‘New Atheists’ about a decade ago coupled with the ongoing ‘culture wars’ between religious and secular groups in the United States has led atheists as a population to gain an unprecedented level of visibility in this country in recent years, even as their prevalence has only incrementally increased. This has sparked a particular interest in anti-atheist prejudice research in social psychology."



 

 

Cowgill added, "From this previous research, we know that the general population in America tends to stereotype atheists as being immoral and untrustworthy – a reputation that many atheists understandably find distressing. My primary interest was in how atheists themselves respond to these negative stereotypes. Psychological research has demonstrated repeatedly that individuals facing negative stereotypes are not passive observers of this social landscape..."



 

 

She added, "...But rather are impacted and react in a dynamic way to negative group-level judgments important to their identities" An interesting point to note in the study is that Christians and atheists demonstrated the same in-group bias once their religious affiliations were concealed.  Cowgill said that this "rules out the possibility that the results could be entirely explained due to discrimination on the part of the Christians.”



 

 

Surprisingly, or not, when everyone’s religious affiliation was disclosed, Christian participants were noticed to offer more money to fellow Christians than to atheists. However, Athiest participants gave equally to atheists and Christians. Another interesting finding from the study was that when an atheist's own religious identity was concealed from the other participants, they tended to give more to their fellow atheists than to Christians. The behavior of Christians remained unchanged.



 

 

Cowgill said, "Atheists appear to have been motivated by negative stereotypes to behave more prosocially. Although that may seem like a net positive, the mechanisms at work here may carry some more troublesome implications. For instance, on a more speculative note, I think it is quite telling that atheists are perhaps so acutely aware of negative stereotypes about themselves that there are observable differences in their behavior as compared with Christians in even this small, low-stakes type of interaction. Arguably, they are on some level aware of a pretty serious stigma about their identity.”



 

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