Study shows thinking from God's perspective can reduce bias against others

January 7, 2016
Credit: Francisco Farias Jr/public domain

From the Christian Crusades to the Paris attacks, countless conflicts and acts of violence have been claimed to be the result of differing religious beliefs. These faith-based opinions are thought to motivate aggressive behavior because of how they encourage group loyalty or spin ideologies that devalue the lives of non-believers.

However, new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals the opposite: might instead promote interfaith cooperation. Researchers from the New School for Social Research and Carnegie Mellon University examined how Palestinian youth made moral choices, from their own perspectives and from the perspective of Allah. The results showed that Muslim-Palestinians believed that Allah preferred them to value the lives of Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis more equally, raising the possibility that beliefs about God can mitigate bias against other groups and reduce barriers to peace.

"Our findings are important because one precursor to violence is when people believe that the lives of members of their group are more important than the lives of members of another group. Here, we show that religious belief—even amidst a conflict centered on religious differences—can lead people to apply universal moral principles similarly to believers and non-believers alike," said Jeremy Ginges, associate professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research.

For the study, 555 Palestinian adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 were presented with a classic "trolley dilemma" that involved a Palestinian man being killed to save the lives of five children who were either Jewish-Israeli or Muslim-Palestinian. The participants responded from their own perspective and from Allah's perspective.

The results showed that although Muslim-Palestinian participants valued their own group's lives over Jewish-Israeli lives, they believed that Allah preferred them to value the lives of members of both groups more equally. In fact, thinking from Allah's perspective decreased the bias toward their own group by almost 30 percent.

"Beliefs about God seem to encourage an application of universal moral rules to believers and non-believers alike, even in a conflict zone. Thus, it does not seem to be beliefs about God that lead to outgroup aggression," said Nichole Argo, a research scientist in engineering and public policy and social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

"There may be other aspects of religion that lead to outgroup aggression. For instance, other work done in conflict zones has identified participation in collective religious rituals and frequent attendance at a place of worship to be associated with support for violence. This study, however, adds to a growing literature on how religious belief can increase cooperation with people from other faiths," Argo said.

Explore further: Israel grants Palestinian mobile carriers 3G frequency

More information: Jeremy Ginges et al. Thinking from God's perspective decreases biased valuation of the life of a nonbeliever, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2015). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1512120113

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richardwenzel987
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 07, 2016
Not bloody likely.
NoStrings
5 / 5 (6) Jan 07, 2016
So, in a nutshell, they were asked to use empathy. Under a guise of thinking from the point of view of a presumably benevolent and powerful abstract being.
1. This will work in the lab, no doubt. Not a chance it will work in a violent environment. In a violent environment we are genetically programmed to perceive 'other' as intrinsically evil and unworthy miscreant out there to hurt us; ones that didn't have this bias, perished long ago.

2. The result may depend on a type of god will, based on a specific religion. Some may rejoice about five, not belonging to 'their' group, perishing - if so is commanded by their god.

3. It is obvious that kids knew they were evaluated based on their decisions, and thought it would be to their benefit to be perceived benevolent.

Conclusion: what a proving nothing study.
antigoracle
1.9 / 5 (9) Jan 07, 2016
I believe God would be pleased, but mostly amused.
HealingMindN
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 07, 2016
If only humans were capable of having "God's Perspective," what a wonderful world this would be. I should hope that all humans in this world are brought up with a life-positive moral compass. But that's probably only me.
tblakely1357
1.8 / 5 (19) Jan 08, 2016
A couple of issues. First, most 'religious' atrocities are actually 'secular' atrocities that just used religion for an excuse. Second, atheists have killed far more people in a far shorter time in the 20th century than all the religious atrocities in history. Funny there are no studies as to what makes atheists so murderous.
FainAvis
4.2 / 5 (10) Jan 08, 2016
@tblakely
Wash your mouth out. Your prejudice is showing.
joshua_kenny_greenwood
1.7 / 5 (11) Jan 08, 2016
If you would like "God's Perspective" then listen to the voice of truth and take the warning of the coming time of calamity. Here is empirical proof of the Lord speaking prophetically: http://www.church...lfilled/
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (15) Jan 08, 2016
It's sort of funny, because when you think what a godlike being would be like you come up with something like this:
"When you can flatten entire cities at a whim, a tendency towards quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellow's-point-of-view is seldom necessary."
-- Terry Pratchett, Small Gods


On a more serious note the study seems to point inthe following direction:
If you sue your own moral compass it is too easy to find an excuse not to treat others as you would have them treat you. But if you make your own moral compass inviolable then it's harder to break it

(And let's not kid ourselves: Any "god's" moral compass is simply our own. We - and not just ISIS or other nutcases - make "gods will" in our own image)
EnricM
5 / 5 (3) Jan 08, 2016
...

Gott mit uns ? ;)
jim_xanara
2.9 / 5 (10) Jan 08, 2016
Whaaaa?!? Every one that I hear claimng to have God's POV is trying to kill someone.

Fuck religion and the weak minded dolts that need it. As mentioned this is just empathy. I'm tired of retrograde humans acting like we need religion to be decent. Maybe 1,000 years ago some did, but today most don't. Anyone so weak minded and unempathetic that they do need it should be culled.
Vietvet
3.9 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2016
Anyone with holding bigoted conspiracy beliefs is a retrograd human.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 08, 2016
Isn't it time we stopped those who need a Cosmic Daddy from demanding the respect they want for their mental illness?

Yes, it is, sadly, a mental illness to "believe" in the improvable, the ridiculous, passed down from the Age of Superstition and Ignorance.
gkam
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2016
"retrograd "?

Isn't that a back-to-the-past area of the old Soviet Union? Sounds like the Putin vision for NovoRossia.
greenonions
5 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2016
tblakely
Second, atheists have killed far more people in a far shorter time in the 20th century than all the religious atrocities in history

Same tired arguments over and over. Just because Hitler had a moustache - not everyone with a moustache is a monster. And correct - just because bad things were done by religious people - not all religious people are bad. What has to be stated is the difference between 'was done by an atheist,' and was done in the name of atheism The old argument of more killings in the name of atheism has been addressed so many times - here is one of many - http://www.skepti...trocity/
thefurlong
5 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2016
So, in a nutshell, they were asked to use empathy. Under a guise of thinking from the point of view of a presumably benevolent and powerful abstract being.

I don't think empathy had anything to do with it, though I could be wrong as the paper is behind a paywall. It seems they were asked to answer the trolley dilemma from their perspective and from God's. The abstract says explicitly that they, on average, DIDN'T consider Jewish Israelis as worth saving as Palestinians. That their answers differed from God's perspective only reflects how they think God is supposed to be, not how they actually feel about Jewish Israelis.

To me, this is cognitive dissonance experienced in a nutshell. It amazes me how a person can honestly claim to be a devout Christian or Muslim, on the one hand, and embrace all the hateful teachings, and ignore the rest. Humans are very good at denial.
gkam
3 / 5 (14) Jan 08, 2016
"Humans are very good at denial."

----------------------------------------

WE ARE NOT!
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 08, 2016
The research seems to be flawed.

While the paper is paywalled, it is embedded in a larger survey of _political_ opinions, and nowhere in the supplement is belief (or even family's religion) listed. Also, all participants are 11-19 years of age, notably they had to adjust the initial experiment to get the youngest children to understand. [ http://www.pnas.o...sapp.pdf ]

The result is therefore not representative of whole populations, nor likely of religious thinking.

"Here, we show that religious belief—even amidst a conflict centered on religious differences—can lead people to apply universal moral principles similarly to believers and non-believers alike".

Oddly they claim that if religious believers exercise themselves they can achieve as good morality as non-believers.

Notably and ironically it means non-believers 'are Allah' ("choices ... from the perspective of Allah"). (O.o)
Uncle Ira
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 08, 2016
"Humans are very good at denial."

----------------------------------------

WE ARE NOT!


I can not believe that you out of all the Skippys on here say that one. Cher you say him with the straight face? Since you wrote him with the really big letters I guess you thought we might miss the joke, eh?
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2016
A couple of issues. First, most 'religious' atrocities are actually 'secular' atrocities that just used religion for an excuse. Second, atheists have killed far more people in a far shorter time in the 20th century than all the religious atrocities in history. Funny there are no studies as to what makes atheists so murderous.
All the supposed "atheists" were actually catholic Jesuit educated and trained in the priesthood. Hitler was a devout catholic. Communism was invented by Jesuits in Paraguay. Vietvet is a stealth Vatican minion pretending to be atheist while all his actions suit the Jesuit/zionist agenda
thefurlong
5 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2016
"Humans are very good at denial."

----------------------------------------

WE ARE NOT!


I can not believe that you out of all the Skippys on here say that one. Cher you say him with the straight face? Since you wrote him with the really big letters I guess you thought we might miss the joke, eh?

Well, I enjoyed the joke, at least ;)
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2016
@tblakely: "First, most 'religious' atrocities are actually 'secular' atrocities that just used religion for an excuse."

Unlikely, and you have no evidence. Even so, how would that excuse the immorality of religion that secular (or 'secular', whatever that means) people can use religion as excuse?

Secular morals - religious morals: 2 - 0.

"Second, atheists have killed far more people in a far shorter time in the 20th century than all the religious atrocities in history."

Unlikely, and the evidence is against. The only declared atheist society was Albany under Hoxha, and it didn't kill very many compared to the religious motivated wars in Europe. All other key killers were either religious before or during (Mao as young, Hitler "Gott mit uns"), or trained as priests or else in religious schools (Stalin, Mussolini).

Secular morals - religious morals: 4 - 1.

You can't pin the absence oF morals in religious people (unless they strive to think as seculars) on secularism.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.5 / 5 (8) Jan 08, 2016
I meant pin it on atheism. If you had gone for secularism (absent democracy and human rights, the ,oral core of it), you had a chance. Atheists were seldom in power (more so in the 21st century - see Prime Ministers of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark et cetera - and they are not interested in putting aside freedom of religion. (Except the atheist dictator Hoxha. There is always rare exceptions.)

On the last point one could likely add the curiously pantheist-like Japan in WWII, since the society had a religious-like belief in a holy Emperor. Of course, that type of "person religion" - 'holy leader' - was also a part of communist societies (Hoxha I'm sure, Lenin/Stalin, Mao, ...).
rrrander
2 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2016
Non-religious people (socialists, communists) killed 100 million people in the last century (Russia, China, Cambodia) far more than those who believed in, or referred to a God. Religion, on balance acts as a moderating force because all the major religions have standards of God-mandated morality. Culture and political beliefs are far more dangerous.
gkam
2 / 5 (8) Jan 09, 2016
rrrander, get thyself to the Middle East.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2016
Non-religious people (socialists, communists) killed 100 million people in the last century (Russia, China, Cambodia) far more than those who believed in, or referred to a God. Religion, on balance acts as a moderating force because all the major religions have standards of God-mandated morality. Culture and political beliefs are far more dangerous.
Which non-religious nations were those? In CCCP government dissolved as soon as the zionist/jesuit influence waned, and Ja Rothschild thought he could become richer with a lame duck president and a flock of shadowy zionist minions called the Yeltsin six
humy
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2016
So "thinking from God's perspective can reduce bias against others"?
I have an infinitely better idea:
Do NOT think biased against others AT ALL (as opposed to merely "reduce" bias against others) and do this without the superstitious belief that there is a god?
Can you think of any reason why a rational mind would NEED to believe there exists a god to have no bias against others? How would it help?
humy
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 10, 2016
Non-religious people (socialists, communists) ...

Most Non-religious people are not hard-line communist which commit such atrocities and many communists are theists. In addition, hard-line communism is a quasi-religion (it is a dogma) which means one thing that is what is so very wrong with it is more like theism than atheism, even where and when it promotes atheism. All the atheists I know of, including myself, completely reject it and see it as no better than religion that has also directly/indirectly lead to atrocities.
If we want to stop those atrocities; reject religion AND hard-line communism! But not atheism.
promile
Jan 10, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Benni
2.6 / 5 (10) Jan 10, 2016
Whaaaa?!? Every one that I hear claimng to have God's POV is trying to kill someone.

Fuck religion and the weak minded dolts that need it. As mentioned this is just empathy. I'm tired of retrograde humans acting like we need religion to be decent. Maybe 1,000 years ago some did, but today most don't. Anyone so weak minded and unempathetic that they do need it should be culled.


Mao Tse Tung murdered 65 million people in the name of Communism in the 1940's & 50's, that wasn't 1000 years ago, you're thinking of Ghengis Kahn & his sons who only managed 40 million.
greenonions
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2016
Mao Tse Tung murdered 65 million people in the name of Communism
Once again the tired arguments get trotted out by those who lack critical thinking skills. There is no point to this comment by Benni - but the religious keep restating it. Communism is not the same as atheism. I am an atheist - but I am not a communist. See Benni - very simple logic. So it is very fair to point out that much evil is done in the name of god. Who cries Allahu Akbar as they detonate their suicide vests Benni? Now point to an atheist group (not socialist, or communist) that is murdering in the name of atheism. Now look around your world - and see the evil of religion. Who is doing all the killing today Benni? Maybe look over at the middle east, or Africa - and all in the name of Allahu Akbar. Stop trotting out the same old debunked, lazy arguments.
my2cts
3 / 5 (8) Jan 10, 2016
A couple of issues. First, most 'religious' atrocities are actually 'secular' atrocities that just used religion for an excuse. Second, atheists have killed far more people in a far shorter time in the 20th century than all the religious atrocities in history. Funny there are no studies as to what makes atheists so murderous.

What stops you from submitting a research proposal. There are enough religious maniacs out there who would be willing to sponsor such propaganda.
my2cts
2.8 / 5 (9) Jan 10, 2016
@Benni
Religious folks claim moral superiority. This claim is contradicted by the facts, namely the slaughters that were committed in the name of religion.
Diminishing Ghenghiz Khan's acts is silly, they are beyond compare.
my2cts
2.8 / 5 (9) Jan 10, 2016
thinking from God's perspective
Isn't it an oxymoron? The religious perspective is based on belief, not rational thinking.

It is. Well spotted.
It is also incredibly presumptuous. First they claim that there is a superior being, then they claim to be "thinking from God's perspective".
Narcissism in its purest form.
gkam
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 10, 2016
The Lord came to me last night. Unfortunately, Baal and Mithra were already there, tussling with The Aten.

And that illustrates two problems with religion: Which "Absolute Truth" is the real one?

Or, perhaps, "Why do we do this to ourselves?"
Benni
2.2 / 5 (10) Jan 10, 2016
Mao Tse Tung murdered 65 million people in the name of Communism in the 1940's & 50's, that wasn't 1000 years ago, you're thinking of Ghengis Kahn & his sons who only managed 40 million.


January 10, 2016, 10:06 am 1 Vietvet gkam greenonions


Well now, isn't this vote tally telling a tale of those who are having problems with Enemy Identification.
humy
4.5 / 5 (8) Jan 10, 2016
communism ≠ atheism

Most atheists are not communists so why should the be blamed for what others have done?

Many communists are theists.

Communism in its most basic form is purely a political belief, not a belief there is no god.

See:

https://en.wikipe...ommunism
"...Christian communism is a form of religious communism based on Christianity. It is a theological and political theory based upon the view that the teachings of Jesus Christ compel Christians to support communism as the ideal social system. ..."

There, sorted.
greenonions
5 / 5 (4) Jan 10, 2016
Benni
Well now, isn't this vote tally telling a tale of those who are having problems with Enemy Identification.
Well being that you raised the issue - I see it more as an issue of identification of those with low reasoning skills. Seems odd that you continue to comment on a sciency site such as physorg - but hey - happy to slap you with a 1 vote any time.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (4) Jan 10, 2016
communism ≠ atheism
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_communism

More to the point communism is simply bolshevism, which is a manifesto of Jewish talmud theocracy. (My gf may correct me on some details). It was tested first on natives in Paraguay by crypto-zionist Jesuits before being funded by Rothschild banksters via their usual shell companies and goy front people. The tenants of communism are therefore fully rooted in theocracy, not rationality

There are some good things that came out of Mayer's Rothchild's psychotic racism. People had their own homes, cars and families without much consternation. The good things are a result of adaptation, and not benevolence on the part of zionist supremacists
koitsu
5 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2016
I admit that I am only going by the information presented by the article and have not read the whitepaper. But one question:

Was there a control group? For example, was there a group of non-religious participants or maybe atheists or agnostics from the same environment whose results were put against the results of the religious participants?

If not, isn't any conclusion from this study kind of, hm, what's the word...?
my2cts
3 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2016
Benni
Well now, isn't this vote tally telling a tale of those who are having problems with Enemy Identification.
Well being that you raised the issue - I see it more as an issue of identification of those with low reasoning skills. Seems odd that you continue to comment on a sciency site such as physorg - but hey - happy to slap you with a 1 vote any time.

I almost forgot. 1 star from me too Benni !
humy
5 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2016
communism ≠ atheism
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_communism

More to the point communism is simply bolshevism, which is a manifesto of Jewish talmud theocracy.


You do know Karl Marx was atheist, right?
+ I could be wrong, but, as far as I am aware most theist communists are not Jews.
This doesn't in any way mitigate the fact that many communists are Christian or at least theist i.e. not atheist.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Jan 11, 2016
Marx was a murderer? Most figureheads of Soviet Union were zionist Bolsheviks. First law passed by Lenin was to make anti-zionism punishable by death
my2cts
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 11, 2016
First law passed by Lenin was to make anti-zionism punishable by death

You mean of course that he abolished the antisemitic laws and stopped the pogroms committed by a sequence of brutal dictators.
https://en.wikipe...et_Union
my2cts
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 11, 2016
Marx was a murderer? Most figureheads of Soviet Union were zionist Bolsheviks. First law passed by Lenin was to make anti-zionism punishable by death

Is Kochevnik a murderer?
Note that I just use "Kochevnik" and "murderer" in the same sentence as a simple smear campaign. The question mark is a decoy.
my2cts
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 11, 2016
Is Kochevnik spreading offensive lies ?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2016
Was there a control group?

What would the control group be asked?
"How would you rate this situation if it were to be judged by a non-existent entity?"

Doesn't really work. Atheists/agnostics should judge a situation no matter whether they are asked to see it from their or Allah's POV.
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2016
"...can lead people to apply universal moral principles"

Yet no universal moral principles have been shown to exist

@NoSense Kochevnik spreading offensive lies ?
None that you are able to articulate, apparently You in turn are spreading innuendo, which is readily up-taken by the psyorg peanut gallery
my2cts
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 12, 2016
"...can lead people to apply universal moral principles"

Yet no universal moral principles have been shown to exist

@NoSense Kochevnik spreading offensive lies ?
None that you are able to articulate, apparently You in turn are spreading innuendo, which is readily up-taken by the psyorg peanut gallery

Aha so now I am spreading innuendo.
So are you. Stop spreading lies and I will stop from my side.
kochevnik
not rated yet Jan 12, 2016
"...can lead people to apply universal moral principles"

Yet no universal moral principles have been shown to exist

@NoSense Kochevnik spreading offensive lies ?
None that you are able to articulate, apparently You in turn are spreading innuendo, which is readily up-taken by the psyorg peanut gallery

Aha so now I am spreading innuendo.
So are you. Stop spreading lies and I will stop from my side.
Stick your innuendo up your religious retardation, NoSense
my2cts
3 / 5 (4) Jan 12, 2016
@kochevnik
Coming from you I take that as a compliment.

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