consultants are sandburs

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It has always seemed so to me, and now a formal study examines, "The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World."

Tight compartmented persons being who they are, in linking to the study, Science Direct notes:

Many families believe religion plays an essential role in childhood moral development. But children of religious parents may not be as altruistic as those parents think, according to a new international study from the University of Chicago published Nov. 5 in Current Biology.

A team of developmental psychologists led by Prof. Jean Decety examined the perceptions and behavior of children in six countries. The study assessed the children's tendency to share -- a measure of their altruism -- and their inclination to judge and punish others for bad behavior.

Children from religious families were less likely to share with others than were children from non-religious families. A religious upbringing also was associated with more punitive tendencies in response to anti-social behavior.

The results were at odds with the perceptions of religious parents, who were more likely than non-religious parents to report that their children had a high degree of empathy and sensitivity to the plight of others.

"Our findings contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others. In our study, kids from atheist and non-religious families were, in fact, more generous," said Decety, the Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry and the College and director of the University of Chicago Child NeuroSuite.

The study included 1,170 children between ages 5 and 12, from six countries -- Canada, China, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.

For the altruism task, children participated in a version of the "Dictator Game," in which they were given 10 stickers and provided an opportunity to share them with another unseen child. Altruism was measured by the average number of stickers shared.

For the moral sensitivity task, children watched short animations in which one character pushes or bumps another, either accidentally or purposefully. After seeing each situation, children were asked about how mean the behavior was and the amount of punishment the character deserved.

Parents completed questionnaires about their religious beliefs and practices and perceptions of their children's empathy and sensitivity to justice. From the questionnaires, three large groupings were established: Christian, Muslim and not religious. (Children from other religious households did not reach a large enough sample size to be included in additional analyses.)

[italics and ending parenthetical in original]

Regimented minds are as they are. A pdf of the journal publication can be downloaded here.

I think you see this in politics. Compare Bernie and Ted Cruz.

A while back a fairly rigid minded local politician circulated an email contending Muslims do not make good citizens (presumably from the viewpoint that Christians do). That was mere offensive and opinionated speculation-mongering and not a formal study.

Likely some may feel that altruism is for suckers, and not akin to good citizenship. Grover Norquist comes to mind.

With altruism as a consideration, does any reader find anything wrong in this series of academic arrangements? (For those not certain, the University of Chicago is a private university, so arguments about public money better spent are largely off point, and arguably indicative in part of a mood that private sector money should not be spent in whatever way the spender deems best. That caveat is given, noting reporting is unclear whether the described university efforts may be funded in whole or in part by public sector grant money under specific granting authority rules or requirements.)

1 comment:

Moa'bite said...

Intriguing results! I come from Jordan and would like to read manuscript! Thanks for posting the link to the full text!