Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren

Document Type


Event Date



We have a tendency to show a preference towards those who are most similar to ourselves. Most commonly, these biases feed into the perceived ideas that those similar to us (the in-group) are good and that those different from ourselves (the out-group) are bad (Rosenbaum & Holtz, 1985). In addition, Ruthland et al. (2010) demonstrated that the morality bias (i.e., preferring those that are good) often is stronger than the group bias (i.e., preferring the in-group); that is, moral preference is given priority over group membership. We sought to understand the interaction between how Christian participants perceive and rate individuals varying in group status (Christianity: in-group vs. Muslim: out-group) and morality (good vs. bad). The 118 participants were assigned to one of four conditions: moral/in-group, immoral/in-group, moral/out-group, and immoral/out-group. They completed a series of religious questionnaires, including quest religiousness, which is the perception of religion as a journey. Those who endorse quest religiousness indicate that they have a high tolerance for religious doubt and uncertainty. The participants were presented with descriptions of a fictitious individual that matched their condition and rated the individual on personality descriptor and interests to interact. A main effect revealed a preference for moral over immoral targets. However, a significant three-way interaction between quest religiousness, target morality, and group status revealed that when rating moral individuals, those high in quest religiousness rated the out-group member more favorably, and those low in quest religiousness rated the in-group member more favorably. This interaction indicates that a potential reverse of in-group bias occurs in those who view religion as a quest: such individuals rate more favorably those who are moral and religiously dissimilar than those who are moral and religiously similar.


This research was supported by a grant from The John Templeton Foundation.