Jeremy Ginges


3 Beliefs about the God of the Other in Intergroup Conflict: Experimental Results from Israel and Palestine

Authors: Crystal Shackleford, Michael Pasek, Jeremy Ginges, Allon Vishkin


In the Middle East, conflict is often viewed as religiously motivated. In this context, an important question is how we think the religion of the other drives their behavior. If people see conflicts as religious, they may expect the belief of the other to motivate intergroup bias. Beliefs about the motivations of the other impact how we engage with them. Conflict may result if actors believe the other’s religion promotes parochialism. To examine how actors on the ground in Israel-Palestine think about the God of the other as it relates to the other’s behavior towards them, we ran two studies in winter 2019 with an online sample of Jewish Israelis and fieldwork with Palestinians in the West Bank. We asked participants to predict the behavior of an outgroup member participating in an economic game task, dividing the money between themselves and another person, who is either an ingroup or outgroup member. Our experimental manipulation asks participants to predict the behavior of the other when the other is thinking of their God. Both Israelis and Palestinians believed outgroup members would show in-group favoritism, and that group members would give more to their in-group when thinking of their God. We also found that participants thought outgroup members would give more to their own ingroup when thinking of God. In other words, Palestinians predicted that Israelis would give more to fellow Israelis when thinking of God, but also more to Palestinians. Our results suggest that religious belief is seen to promote universal moral reasoning, even in a context with over 70 years of intense conflict. More broadly, this challenges the narrative that religion necessarily motivates intractable conflict.

Keywords: Psychology, Conflict, Religion, morality‎, meta-cognition

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2 Support for Privilege Based on Nationality in Switched-At-Birth Scenario

Authors: Jeremy Ginges, Anne Lehner, Mostafa Salari Rad


Many of life’s privileges (and burdens) are thrust on us at birth. Someone born white or male in the United States is also born with a set of advantages over someone born non-white or female. One aspect of privileges conferred by birth is that they are so entrenched in social institutions and social norms that until they are robustly challenged, they can be seen as a moral good. While American society increasingly confronts privileges based on gender and race, other types of privileges, like one's nationality, see less attention. The nationality one is born into can have enormous effects on one’s personal life, work opportunities, and health outcomes. Yet, we predicted that although most Americans would regard it as absurd to think that white people have a right to protect their privileges and 'way of life', they would regard it as obvious that Americans have a right to protect the American way of life and associated privileges. In a preregistered study we presented 300 Americans randomly with one out of three 'privilege scales' in order to assess their agreement with certain statements. The domains for the privilege scales were nationality, race, and gender. Next, all participants completed the switched-at-birth task assessing ones tendency to essentialize nationality. We found that Americans are more approving of privilege based on nationality than of privilege based on gender and race. In addition, we found an interaction of condition with ideology, showing that conservatives are in general more approving of the privilege of any kind than liberals are, and they especially approve of privilege based on nationality. For the switched-at-birth task, we found that both, liberals as well as conservatives are equally willing to grant the child 100% American nationality. Whether or not one chose 100% is unrelated to the expressed approval of privilege based on nationality. One might hesitate to fully grant the child 100% American nationality in the task, yet disapprove of privilege based on nationality. This shows that as much as we see beholders of privilege being oblivious to their statuses within other social categories, like gender or race, we seem to detect the same blindness for the privilege based on nationality. Liberals showing relatively fewer support for privilege based on nationality compared to conservatives still refused to acknowledge the child as having become 100% American and thereby denying the privileges it potentially bestows upon them.

Keywords: Psychology, Immigration, thought experiment, anti-immigrant attitudes, privilege of nationality, moral circles

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1 Religious Cognition and Intergroup Bias in the Trolley Dilemma: Experimental Fieldwork in Fiji

Authors: Crystal Shackleford, Michael Pasek, Julia Smith, Jeremy Ginges


There is extensive debate about the causal role of religion in intergroup conflict. It is commonly accepted that religious beliefs promote in-group cohesion, but religion is often believed to exacerbate inter-group conflict. Fiji is religiously diverse and has a lengthy history of ethno-religious conflict. In a preregistered field experiment using a modified version of the trolley problem dilemma, Christian and Muslim Fijians were asked, first from their own perspective, and then from their God’s perspective, whether a religious ingroup member should sacrifice their life to save five children who were ingroup or outgroup members. Almost all Muslim participants believed that the person should always sacrifice themselves to save the children. Amongst Christian participants, thinking from God’s perspective increased their likelihood of saying the children should be saved by 35% and removed a 27% gap between responses to saving ingroup versus outgroup children. These results replicate previous findings from a Palestinian sample and demonstrate, in another cross-cultural context with a history of violent conflict, that religious cognition can decrease bias and promote the application of universal moral principles.

Keywords: Psychology, Conflict, Religion, Thought Experiments, moral dilemma

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