Kevin Lewis

December 10, 2015

Is the call to prayer a call to cooperate? A field experiment on the impact of religious salience on prosocial behavior

Erik Duhaime
Judgment and Decision Making, November 2015, Pages 593–596

While religiosity is positively correlated with self-reported prosociality, observational and experimental studies on the long-hypothesized connection between religion and prosocial behavior have yielded mixed results. Recent work highlights the role of religious salience for stimulating prosocial behavior, but much of this research has involved priming Christian subjects in laboratory settings, limiting generalization to the real world. Here I present a field study conducted in the souks in the medina of Marrakesh, Morocco, which shows that religious salience can increase prosocial behavior with Muslim subjects in a natural setting. In an economic decision making task similar to a dictator game, shopkeepers demonstrated increased prosocial behavior when the Islamic call to prayer was audible compared to when it was not audible. This finding complements a growing literature on the connection between cultural cues, religious practices, and prosocial behavior, and supports the hypothesis that religious rituals play a role in galvanizing prosocial behavior.


Religiosity as a buffer against suicidal ideation: A comparison between Christian and Muslim-Arab adolescents

Helen Kakounda Muallem & Moshe Israelashvilli
Mental Health, Religion & Culture, forthcoming

The majority of existing studies on the impact of religious beliefs on adolescents’ suicidal ideation have been conducted among Christians living in Western countries. This study explored the association between religious beliefs and suicidal thoughts among Muslim and Christian adolescents from the Arab minority population of the State of Israel. An estimated 219 late-adolescents participated in this study, including 110 Muslims and 99 Christians, with the same proportion of boys and girls. Participants completed questionnaires on reasons for living, suicidal ideation and religiosity. A significant negative correlation (r = −.33) was found between level of religiosity and suicidal ideation, but only among the Christian adolescents. Religious devoutness may not be a universal buffer against suicidal ideation, across different religions.


Spouse's Religious Commitment and Marital Quality: Clarifying the Role of Gender

Samuel Perry
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: Research on religion and marriage consistently finds a positive association between spousal religious commitment and more positive marital outcomes. But findings regarding the moderating influence of gender on this relationship have been mixed. This article clarifies whether returns to marital quality from having a devout spouse are greater for married women or men.

Method: Drawing on data from the nationally representative 2006 Portraits of American Life Study, and utilizing 12 different measures of marital quality, I estimate ordinary least squares (OLS) and logistic regression models to test my hypotheses.

Results: In analyses of the full sample, spouse's religious commitment generally predicts positive marital outcomes, net of controls for respondents’ gender as well as their religious and sociodemographic characteristics. However, when models are estimated for women and men separately, the returns to marital quality from having a religiously committed spouse are much stronger and more consistent for women than for men.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that, ceteris paribus, having a spouse who is more religious predicts positive marriage outcomes, but women benefit from having a religiously committed spouse more than men do. Possible explanations are discussed.


Social norms, dual identities, and national attachment: How the perceived patriotism of group members influences Muslim Americans

Elizabeth Suhay, Brian Calfano & Ryan Dawe
Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming

What causes individuals to express patriotism? We argue that Americans’ symbolic patriotism stems in part from social influence, with norms in relevant identity groups influencing individuals’ patriotism levels. Given that Americans identify with multiple groups – national, racial, and religious, among others – many groups are potentially influential in this regard. We focus in this article on Muslim Americans, an especially diverse group, conducting an experiment with approximately 450 Muslim Americans from across the USA. We randomly assigned participants to stimuli that portrayed either Muslim Americans or Americans in general as either highly patriotic or unpatriotic. Perceived patriotic norms among Americans and Muslim Americans strongly – and equally – influenced participants’ expressions of patriotism, although unpatriotic norms did not influence participants’ patriotism. In addition, patriotic and unpatriotic norms among fellow national and subgroup members influenced participants’ evaluations of government. As predicted, these norms did not influence intended participation, suggesting that the normative import of symbolic patriotism may be limited. Finally, African-American Muslims, a minority subgroup of this population, were less responsive to Muslim American patriotic norms than were non-African-American Muslims. The results support the conceptualization of patriotism as a social norm and demonstrate the political relevance of Americans’ multiple identities.


Did Buddha turn the other cheek too? A comparison of posing biases between Jesus and Buddha

Kari Duerksen, Trista Friedrich & Lorin Elias
Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, forthcoming

People tend to exhibit a leftward bias in posing. Various studies suggest that posing to the left portrays a stronger emotion, whereas posing to the right portrays a more neutral emotion. Religions such as Christianity emphasize the role of strong emotions in religious experience, whereas religions such as Buddhism emphasize the calming of emotions as being important. In the present study, we investigated if the emphasis on emotionality of a religion influences the depiction of their religious figures. Specifically, we coded 484 paintings of Jesus and Buddha from online art databases for whether the deity exhibited a left bias, right bias, or central face presentation. The posing biases were analysed to discover whether paintings of Jesus would more frequently depict a leftward bias than paintings of Buddha. Jesus is more commonly depicted with a leftward bias than Buddha, and Buddha is more commonly depicted with a central face presentation than Jesus. These findings support the idea that the amount of emotionality that is to be conveyed in artwork influences the whether the subject is posed with a leftward bias.


How Religious are American Women and Men? Gender Differences and Similarities

Landon Schnabel
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

Are women universally more religious than men? Some research on gender differences has argued that biology leads women to be innately more religious than men, but other research has highlighted the importance of avoiding universal claims and recognizing complexity. This brief note uses General Social Survey data to report gender differences in predicted religiosity by religious category across eight measures. In the United States, gender differences seem to be primarily a Christian phenomenon. Although women reveal higher levels of religiosity across Christian groups, this trend does not extend to non-Christian groups. Furthermore, there is variation even among Christian groups, with women not revealing higher levels of religiosity for all measures. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a general trend for women to report daily prayer more often than men. These findings further problematize the idea that there are innate gender differences in religiosity rooted in biology, and provide a descriptive foundation for future attempts to explain why (American) Christian groups reveal gender differences in religiosity.


The Role of Religion in Environmental Attitudes

Matthew Arbuckle & David Konisky
Social Science Quarterly, November 2015, Pages 1244–1263

Objective: This article examines the role of religion in public attitudes about the environment. While some have found that various aspects of theology and religious practices are responsible for lower levels of concern about the environment, the overall evidence is inconclusive, largely because the typical sample size is insufficient to gain insight into differences between religious traditions.

Methods: We use ordered logistic regression to analyze data from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a large survey that allows us to unpack the relationships among religious affiliation, religiosity, and environmental attitudes.

Results: Our results show that members of Judeo-Christian traditions are less concerned about environmental protection than their nonreligious peers, and that religiosity somewhat intensifies these relationships for evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and mainline Protestants.

Conclusion: While the results generally support traditional arguments that religion depresses concern about the environment, they also reveal considerable variation across and within religious traditions.


Christmas and Subjective Well-Being: A Research Note

Michael Mutz
Applied Research in Quality of Life, forthcoming

According to Holmes and Rahe, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11(2), 213–218, (1967), Christmas is a critical life event that may cause feelings of stress that, in turn, can lead to reduced subjective well-being (SWB) and health problems. This study uses a quantitative approach and large-scale survey data to assess whether or not respondents in European countries indicate lower SWB before and around Christmas. Precisely, respondents interviewed in the week before Christmas or at Christmas holidays are compared to respondents who are questioned at other times throughout the year. Moreover, the assumption is tested if religious denomination and religiousness moderate the association between Christmas and SWB. Main findings suggest that the Christmas period is related to a decrease in life satisfaction and emotional well-being. However, Christians, particularly those with a higher degree of religiousness, are an exception to this pattern.


With God on our side: Religious primes reduce the envisioned physical formidability of a menacing adversary

Colin Holbrook, Daniel Fessler & Jeremy Pollack
Cognition, January 2016, Pages 387–392

The imagined support of benevolent supernatural agents attenuates anxiety and risk perception. Here, we extend these findings to judgments of the threat posed by a potentially violent adversary. Conceptual representations of bodily size and strength summarize factors that determine the relative threat posed by foes. The proximity of allies moderates the envisioned physical formidability of adversaries, suggesting that cues of access to supernatural allies will reduce the envisioned physical formidability of a threatening target. Across two studies, subtle cues of both supernatural and earthly social support reduced the envisioned physical formidability of a violent criminal. These manipulations had no effect on the perceived likelihood of encountering non-conflictual physical danger, raising the possibility that imagined supernatural support leads participants to view themselves not as shielded from encountering perilous situations, but as protected should perils arise.


God, Yoga, and Karate

Joseph Yi & Daniel Silver
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

We investigate the location patterns of organizations that embody key religious-spiritual traditions and that have grown to prominence in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries: evangelical churches, yoga, and martial arts. The distribution of key cultural organizations depends on the degree to which they are able to frame themselves in relation to one another and to core American traditions. Organizations associated with the American religious divide are more polarized in their social appeal and spatial distributions, and those framed as broadly neutral elements of popular culture are more widely distributed. Using a national database of local amenities, we find that theologically conservative churches are popular in many neighborhoods but concentrated in less-educated and nonwhite areas. Yoga studios are less geographically dispersed and more spatially concentrated in college-educated and white areas. Compared to these, martial arts schools, sports clubs, and other pop-culture amenities are more widely distributed across different types of areas.


Discrimination and religiosity among Muslim women in the UK before and after the Charlie Hebdo attacks

Skaiste Liepyte & Kareena McAloney-Kocaman
Mental Health, Religion & Culture, forthcoming

In January 2015, media outlets reported a series of attacks by Islamic terror groups in France, instigated at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo publication. Previous research has indicated that the consequence of exposure to terrorist attacks can extend beyond the immediate victims, with a potentially international reach. This secondary data analysis compares the perceptions of discrimination, religiosity, and religious engagement of 240 Muslim women in the UK, recruited before and after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The results indicate greater religious engagement and perceptions of discrimination among those women recruited after the attacks. This suggests that the impact of such events may reach beyond the immediate victims, and societies need to develop and provide support in response to such attacks, regardless of the geographical location of the event.


The Academic Advantage of Devotion: Measuring Variation in the Value of Weekly Worship in Late Adolescence on Educational Attainment Using Propensity Score Matching

Jeannie Kim
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, forthcoming

This study measures the effect of regular worship attendance at age 17 on total years of schooling by age 25, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. Expanding on previous work, this study estimates differences in the impact of worship attendance by race and family income status using propensity score matching. Individuals who frequently attend religious services complete .69 more years of schooling than similar individuals who do not frequently attend services. There are significantly greater returns to attendance for low-income youth and no significant difference in returns by religious affiliation. These findings suggest that religious observance provides greater benefits for low-income individuals or perhaps provides resources high-income individuals have access to elsewhere. Moreover, this study extends previous work by examining a more recent and nationally representative sample of youth and by using methods that allow for greater causal inference.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.