Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, Psychology

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Many world religions emphasize the importance of charity and hospitality towards those in need, so one may expect there to be greater levels of helpfulness towards immigrants among the religious. However, several social psychological perspectives, including Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), Coalitional Psychology (Navarrete & Fessler, 2005), and Terror Management Theory (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 2000), have found that people are more willing to help in-group members than out-of-group members. Religious texts often vary in theme and research has found that biblical passages about a violent God led participants to be more aggressive, (Bushman. Ridge, Das, Key, & Busath, 2007), whereas having participants read peace-based passages from their religious texts reduced negative attitudes toward religious outgroup members (e.g., Christians and Muslims; Rothschild, Abdollahi, & Pyszczynski, 2009). The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of priming religious texts on attitudes towards refugees in the United States. The study employs a 5 (religious prime) x 2 (immigrant religion) design. Undergraduate participants (N = 148) were first randomly assigned to one of five priming conditions (i.e., religious inclusion, religious exclusion, general religion, secular inclusion, or neutral). Then, they were randomly assigned to rate their attitudes toward Christians or Muslim refugees. We expect that our results will reveal that participants will demonstrate an in-group bias (e.g., Christian participants favoring Christian refugees) unless they are primed with religious inclusion, where they should demonstrate similar attitudes towards both Christian or Muslim refugees. This research helps us better understand how priming religious texts affects attitudes towards refugees in the United States.


Bassett, J. F., & Cleveland, A, J. (2019). Identification with all humanity, support for refugees and for extreme counter-terrorism measures. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 7, 310–334, doi: https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v7i1.678

Marianne Millen Carlson, Stacey E. McElroy, Jamie D. Aten, Edward B. Davis, Daryl Van Tongeren, Joshua N. Hook & Don E. Davis (2019) We Welcome Refugees? Understanding the Relationship between Religious Orientation, Religious Commitment, Personality, and Prejudicial Attitudes toward Syrian Refugees. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 29, 94-107. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10508619.2019.1586067


This project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

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