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Who Helps the Samaritan? The Influence of Religious vs. Secular Primes on Spontaneous Helping of Members of Religious Outgroups

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There is a debate as to whether religion increases prosociality. Darley and Batson’s (1973) classic Good Samaritan study provided evidence against religious prosociality because priming religion among Christian seminary students did not increase the likelihood of helping an ailing confederate. Conceptually replicating this study, we primed undergraduate Christians with benevolent verses attributed to the Bible, benevolent verses attributed to u.s. statesmen, or benevolent-irrelevant quotations. Participants were given the opportunity to pick up envelopes dropped by a confederate, who was or was not wearing a hijab. In the non-hijab condition, the rate of helping did not vary across conditions. However, in the hijab wearing condition, the odds of helping were significantly lower in the control group. These results suggest that reminders of benevolence may play a role in mitigating some instances of discrimination, but that religion may be just one source of influence that can foster prosociality toward outgroups.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Arizona State University651 E. University Drive, Tempe, az 85287-1104USA


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