Breaches of Trust Change the Content and Structure of Religious Appeals

Authors

  • Benjamin Grant PurzyckI Department of the Study of Religion Aarhus University
  • Michael N. Stagnaro Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Joni Sasaki University of Hawaii at Manoa

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.38786

Keywords:

gods’ minds, economic games, trust, cognitive anthropology, experimental economics

Abstract

Considerable work suggests that social and environmental pressures can influence religious commitment, the content of beliefs, and features of ritual. Some ecologically minded theories of religion posit that crosscultural variation in beliefs and practices can be partly explained by their utility in addressing persistent threats to cooperation and coordination. However, little experimental work has assessed whether or not socioecological pressures can generate systematic variation in the content and structure of specific beliefs. Here, we assess the causal pathway between social ecology and beliefs by experimentally examining whether or not the content of freely elicited beliefs about God’s concerns change because of breaches of trust. We find that riskily investing in others and receiving no return or delaying the outcome in an economic Trust Game experiment increases the chances of claiming that greed angers God. These results suggest that religious cognition flexibly attends to social ecology and can therefore plausibly evolve in ways that address breaches in cooperative pursuits.

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Published

2020-08-05

How to Cite

PurzyckI, B. G., Stagnaro, M. N., & Sasaki, J. (2020). Breaches of Trust Change the Content and Structure of Religious Appeals. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 14(1), 71–94. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.38786

Issue

Section

CLOSED-Special Issue- Religious Diversity + Cognitive Science of Religion: New E