Different Effects of Religion and God on Prosociality With the Ingroup and Outgroup

Jesse Lee Preston, Ryan S. Ritter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent studies have found that activating religious cognition by priming techniques can enhance prosocial behavior, arguably because religious concepts carry prosocial associations. But many of these studies have primed multiple concepts simultaneously related to the sacred. We argue here that religion and God are distinct concepts that activate distinct associations. In particular, we examine the effect of God and religion on prosociality toward the ingroup and outgroup. In three studies, we found that religion primes enhanced prosociality toward ingroup members, consistent with ingroup affiliation, whereas, God primes enhanced prosociality toward outgroup member, consistent with concerns of moral impression management. Implications for theory and methodology in religious cognition are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1471-1483
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • God concepts
  • ingroup/outgroup bias
  • prosocial behavior
  • religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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