Human Nature

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1–24

Liberal and Conservative Protestant Denominations as Different Socioecological Strategies



It is common to portray conservative and liberal Protestant denominations as “strong” and “weak” on the basis of indices such as church attendance. Alternatively, they can be regarded as qualitatively different cultural systems that coexist in a multiple-niche environment. We integrate these two perspectives with a study of American teenagers based on both one-time survey information and the experience sampling method (ESM), which records individual experience on a moment-by-moment basis. Conservative Protestant youth were found to be more satisfied, family-oriented, and sociable than liberal Protestant youth, but also more dependent on their social environment, which is reflected in a deterioration of their mood when they are alone. Liberal Protestant youth appear to have internalized values that remain constant whether in the presence or absence of others. We relate these results to the social scientific literature on liberalism and conservatism and to evolutionary theory as a framework for explaining cultural systems as adaptations to multiple-niche environments.


Protestantism Liberalism Conservatism Socioecological strategies Religion Evolutionary psychology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social Change, School of Social SciencesUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Biological Sciences DepartmentBinghamton UniversityBinghamtonUSA

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