Moralizing gods, impartiality and religious parochialism across 15 societies

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DOI

  • Martin Lang, Masaryk Univ, Masaryk University Brno, LEVYNA Lab Expt Res Relig
  • ,
  • Benjamin G. Purzycki
  • Coren L. Apicella, Univ Penn, University of Pennsylvania, Dept Psychol
  • ,
  • Quentin D. Atkinson, Univ Auckland, University of Auckland, Dept Psychol, Max Planck Inst Sci Human Hist, Dept Linguist & Cultural Evolut
  • ,
  • Alexander Bolyanatz, Coll DuPage, Social Sci Subdiv
  • ,
  • Emma Cohen, Univ Oxford, University of Oxford, Wadham Coll
  • ,
  • Carla Handley, Arizona State Univ, Arizona State University, Inst Human Origins
  • ,
  • Eva Kundtova Klocova, Masaryk Univ, Masaryk University Brno, LEVYNA Lab Expt Res Relig
  • ,
  • Carolyn Lesorogol, Washington Univ, Washington University (WUSTL), Dept Anthropol
  • ,
  • Sarah Mathew, Arizona State Univ, Arizona State University, Inst Human Origins
  • ,
  • Rita A. McNamara, Victoria Univ Wellington, Victoria University Wellington, Sch Psychol
  • ,
  • Cristina Moya, Univ Calif Davis, University of California Davis, University of California System, Dept Anthropol, Mol Anthropol Lab
  • ,
  • Caitlyn D. Placek, Ball State Univ, Ball State University, Dept Anthropol
  • ,
  • Montserrat Soler, Montclair State Univ, Montclair State University, Dept Anthropol
  • ,
  • Thomas Vardy, Univ Auckland, University of Auckland, Dept Psychol
  • ,
  • Jonathan L. Weigel, Harvard Univ, Harvard University, Dept Econ & Govt
  • ,
  • Aiyana K. Willard, Brunel Univ, Brunel University, Ctr Culture & Evolut
  • ,
  • Dimitris Xygalatas
  • Ara Norenzayan, Univ British Columbia, University of British Columbia, Dept Psychol
  • ,
  • Joseph Henrich, Harvard Univ, Harvard University, Dept Human Evolutionary Biol

The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant coreligionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to such mechanisms being constrained to the religious ingroup, possibly at the expense of religious outgroups. To test these hypotheses, we administered two behavioural experiments and a set of interviews to a sample of 2228 participants from 15 diverse populations. These populations included foragers, pastoralists, horticulturalists, and wage labourers, practicing Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, but also forms of animism and ancestor worship. Using the Random Allocation Game (RAG) and the Dictator Game (DG) in which individuals allocated money between themselves, local and geographically distant co-religionists, and religious outgroups, we found that higher ratings of gods as monitoring and punishing predicted decreased local favouritism (RAGs) and increased resource-sharing with distant co-religionists (DGs). The effects of punishing and monitoring gods on out-group allocations revealed between-site variability, suggesting that in the absence of intergroup hostility, moralizing gods may be implicated in cooperative behaviour toward outgroups. These results provide support for the hypothesis that beliefs in monitoring and punitive gods help expand the circle of sustainable social interaction, and open questions about the treatment of religious outgroups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190202
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume286
Issue1898
Number of pages10
ISSN0962-8452
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • cultural evolution, impartiality, punishing gods, parochialism, religion, supernatural punishment, SUPERNATURAL PUNISHMENT, EVOLUTION, COEVOLUTION

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