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Religious Fundamentalism and Limited Prosociality as a Function of the Target

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Two distinct research traditions have established that (a) religiosity implies prosocial tendencies, though limited to proximal targets, and (b) religious fundamentalism (RF) relates to prejudice, often because of underlying right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). Through two studies, we investigated the idea that RF, due to underlying religiosity, also predicts prosociality that is limited to proximal rather than distal targets. Specifically, we found that RF, unlike RWA and because of religiosity, predicted prosociality towards a nonfeminist but not a feminist target in need (Experiment 1) and willingness to help friends but not unknown people in need in the same hypothetical situations (Experiment 2). Moreover, like RWA, RF implied negative attitudes towards the feminist. This limited, not extended, prosociality of people scoring high on RF was in contrast with their self-perceptions of being universally altruistic. Fundamentalism seems to combine religiosity's qualities (in-group prosociality) with authoritarianism's defects (out-group derogation).

Keywords: authoritarianism; fundamentalism; prejudice; prosocial behavior

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of PsychologyUniversité Catholique de Louvain

Publication date: March 1, 2011


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