Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how subtle religious representations affect prosocial behavior. The authors study the impact of religious representations on prosocial behavior in terms of cooperation in a one-shot/three-person public goods game.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors used the scrambled sentence task to prime participants with religious words before they were asked to make a one-shot/three-person public goods game decision.
Findings – Both in the raw data and when controlling for factors such as age, gender and religious beliefs, the authors found that priming of religious representations increased cooperation in the experiment, that is, increased contributions to the public good. The authors found no significant interaction effects between priming and self-reported measures of religiosity, suggesting that the priming effect was present among both self-reported religious and nonreligious participants. Self-reported measures of religiosity were not correlated with cooperation in this study.
Originality/value – The paper adds to the growing body of experimental economics literature that has studied self-reported measures of religiosity alongside behavior in different economic games. This study contributes to the literature by examining the effect of subtle influences of religion on cooperation. Also, in contrast to previous economic literature, the paper examines the direct impact of religion as an independent variable on cooperation.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2011. Vol. 38, no 11, 900-910 p.