The Influence of Religious Belief on Behavior

A new study looks at the relationship of one’s view of God to ethical behavior. The study found that the difference in one’s view of cheating does not differ along the theist/atheist lines. However, if one views God as more retributive, he or she would be less inclined to cheat than one who does not. From the abstract:

Fear of supernatural punishment may serve as a deterrent to counternormative behavior, even in anonymous situations free from human social monitoring. The authors conducted two studies to test this hypothesis, examining the relationship between cheating behavior in an anonymous setting and views of God as loving and compassionate, or as an angry and punishing agent. Overall levels of religious devotion or belief in God did not directly predict cheating. However, viewing God as a more punishing, less loving figure was reliably associated with lower levels of cheating. This relationship remained after controlling for relevant personality dimensions, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and gender.

This appears to be a paper and pen study. One wonders how the results would look in an experimental study.

LA Times write up here.

The intro to the paper is here and the actual research paper is here.

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