Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself (and as Thy In-group)

Examining the Effects of Moral Intuitions and Intercessory Prayer on Generous Behavior


Project Dates

January 2015—August 2017


Research Team
  • Sarah Schnitker, Project Leader
  • Tyler S. Greenway, Student Researcher
  • Abigail M. Shepherd, Student Researcher


Project Overview

In this study, we investigated the effects of moral intuitions and intercessory prayer on generosity expressed towards someone in the same faith tradition versus another faith tradition. We assigned Christian participants to one of four 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 in-group (Christians) or out-group (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 out-group would lead to increased out-group giving. We also hypothesized that the loyalty moral intuition would mediate effects. Data was collected and analyzed from approximately 350 participants. Initial findings have been presented at the Lilly School of Philanthropy’s Science of Generosity initiative conference on November 2016.


Related Publication
  • Greenway, T.S., Schnitker, S.A. & Shepherd, A.M. (2018) Can prayer increase charitable giving? Examining the effects of intercessory prayer, moral intuitions, and theological orientation on generous behavior. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 28:1 (3-18). doi: 10.1080/10508619.2017.1406790
  • Shepherd, A. M., Schnitker, S. A., & Greenway, T. S. (in preparation). Religious service attendance and the effects of moral intuitions on in-group giving. Fuller Theological Seminary.


Funded By

This study was made possible through the support of generous grants by the Thrive Center, the Travis Research Institute, the American Psychological Association Division 36, and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Science and Imagination of Living Generously Funding Initiative.