Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself (and as Thy In-group): Examining the Effects of Moral Intuitions and Intercessory Prayer on Generous Behavior

Project Leader: Dr. Sarah Schnitker
Project Dates: February 11, 2016 – Present
Student Researchers: Tyler Greenway, Abigail Shepherd
Funded By: Travis Research Institute, APA Division 36, Thrive Center for Human Development

This study investigates the effects of moral intuitions and intercessory prayer on generosity expressed towards someone in the same faith tradition versus another faith tradition. In this study, we assigned Christian participants to 1 of 4 conditions whereby they engaged in a prayer/reflection about people being persecuted in Burma. Participants were assigned to either pray for or reflect on either ingroup (Christians) or outgroup (Muslims) members. Participants were then given an opportunity to donate $20 to Muslim, Christian, or secular charities. We hypothesized that intercessory prayer would increase generous giving and that praying for the outgroup would lead to increased outgroup giving. We also hypothesized that the loyalty moral intuition would mediate effects.

Data was collected from approximately 350 participants and is currently being analyzed. Initial findings will be presented at the Lilly School of Philanthropy’s Science of Generosity initiative conference in November 2016. Analyses will continue and findings from the study should be submitted for publication in the next year.