Science University Research Symposium (SURS)

Impact of Religious Priming on Prosocial Behavior toward Various Social Groups

Publication Date

Fall 2023


Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

SURS Faculty Advisor

Adam Smiley

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Priming occurs when a recent presentation of a stimulus influences subsequent processing, particularly related to the same or related stimuli. (“APA Dictionary of Psychology,” 2023). It has been demonstrated that priming with religious stimuli is associated with greater willingness to engage in prosocial behavior (Pichon & Saroglou, 2009). There are conflicting studies as to whether the semantic primes of “God” and “religion” elicit different thought patterns, specifically regarding prosociality toward either ingroup or outgroup members (Preston & Ritter, 2013; Ramsay et al., 2016). Given these prior research endeavors, we sought to add to the body of knowledge regarding the impact of specific religious semantic primes on prosocial behavior toward different social groups. We hypothesized that priming with "God" (vs. "religion") would lead to more prosocial behavior toward outgroups relative to ingroups. The participant sample included undergraduate introductory psychology students who participated for class credit and individuals recruited via word-of-mouth by the researchers. Participants were randomly primed with either “God” or “religion” through a Scrambled Sentence task, chose to assist either ingroup or outgroup members in multiple fictional scenarios, responded to the Centrality of Religiosity Scale, and provided demographic information. Results and discussion are forthcoming.

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