Evolutionary Psychological Science

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 335–344 | Cite as

Religious Devotion and Extrinsic Religiosity Affect In-group Altruism and Out-group Hostility Oppositely in Rural Jamaica

  • R. Lynch
  • B.G Palestis
  • R. Trivers
Research Article


It has been suggested that intergroup conflict has played an important role in the evolution of human cooperation—aggression against out-groups and cooperation with in-groups may be linked in humans. Previous research suggests that religion may help to facilitate this effect, such that those who view religion as a way to achieve non-religious goals (e.g., raise their status) and regularly attend religious services are more likely to hold hostile attitudes towards out-groups, but that measures of religious devotion (e.g., belief in God) are either unrelated or negatively associated with measures of prejudice. Using questionnaires of key variables on a well-studied rural Jamaican population, we analyzed how different aspects of religious belief predict hostility towards other religions and loyalty to one’s own. In support of previous research, our results indicate that hostility towards other religions is positively predicted by extrinsic religiosity (i.e., using religion to achieve non-religious goals: Allport 1954) and attendance at religious services but is negatively predicted by devotion to religious principles. Meanwhile, willingness to sacrifice for one’s own beliefs is positively predicted by religious devotion. These results support the hypothesis that while devotion to religious principles can increase in-group cooperation, the social aspects of religion can generate hostile attitudes towards out-groups.


Extrinsic religious beliefs Intrinsic religious beliefs In-groups Out-groups Parochial altruism 



We would like to thank Emily Lynch for several rounds of comments on the draft; the Biosocial Research Foundation for funding; and Kevin Rosenfield, Anna Latka, and Julie Elyse for administering surveys and collecting data in Jamaica.

Supplementary material

40806_2017_103_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (218 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 217 kb)
40806_2017_103_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (217 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 217 kb)
40806_2017_103_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (232 kb)
ESM 3 (PDF 231 kb)


  1. Alfred, C. (2016). The strange irony hidden among the highest ranks of ISIS. Sydney: The Huffington Post The Huffington, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. Available from: Accessed May 20, 2016.Google Scholar
  2. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. New York: Addison, Wesley.Google Scholar
  3. Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology., 5, 432–443.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Atran, S. (2003). Genesis of suicide terrorism. Science, 299, 1534–1539.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Atran, S., & Norenzayan, A. (2004). Religion’s evolutionary landscape: counter-intuition, commitment, compassion, communion. Behavioral and Brain Sciences., 27, 713–730.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Atran, S. (2010). Talking to the enemy: faith, brotherhood, and the (un)making of terrorists. NY: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  7. Batson, D. (1982). Religion and the individual. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bernhard, H., Fischbacher, U., & Fehr, E. (2006). Parochial altruism in humans. Nature, 442(7105), 912–915.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bloom, P. (2012). Religion, morality, evolution. Annual Review of Psychology., 63, 179–199.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowles, S. (2008). Being human: conflict: altruism’s midwife. Nature, 456(7220), 326–327.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Boyce, M. S., Vernier, P. R., Nielsen, S. E., & Schmiegelow, F. K. (2002). Evaluating resource selection functions. Ecological Modelling, 157(2), 281–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boyer, P. (2001). Religion explained. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Breslow, J., 2016 FRONTLINE. PBS. PBS, (2014). Web. 15 Feb. Available from:
  14. Brewer, M. B. (1999). The psychology of prejudice: in-group love or out-group hate? Journal of Social Issues, 55, 429–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brooks, A. C. (2006). Who really cares: the surprising truth about compassionate conservatism. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  16. Burnham, K. P., & Anderson, D. R. (2002). Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretical approach (Second ed.). NY: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  17. Byman D L, Williams, JR. ISIS vs. Al Qaeda: jihadism’s global civil war. The Brookings Institution. Web. 15 Feb. 2016: Available from:
  18. Cavanaugh, W. T. (2009). The myth of religious violence: secular ideology and the roots of modern conflict. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Choi, J.-K., & Bowles, S. (2007). The coevolution of parochial altruism and war. Science, 318, 636–640.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Cohen, G. L. (2003). Party over policy: the dominating impact of group influence on political beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 808–822.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Dawkins, R. (2006). The god delusion. New York: Bantam.Google Scholar
  22. De Dreu, C. K., Greer, L. L., Handgraaf, M. J., Shalvi, S., Van Kleef, G. A., Baas, M., & Feith, S. W. (2010). The neuropeptide oxytocin regulates parochial altruism in intergroup conflict among humans. Science, 328(5984), 1408–1411.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Feagin, J. R. (1964). Prejudice and religious types: a focused study of Southern fundamentalists. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 4(1), 3–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fielding, A. H., & Bell, J. F. (1997). A review of methods for the assessment of prediction errors in conservation presence/absence models. Environmental Conservation., 24(01), 38–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gallup Poll Religion. 2008. Retrieved June 20, 2008 from
  26. Gazzaniga, M. (2012). Who’s in charge? Hachette: Free will and the science of the brain.Google Scholar
  27. Ginges, J., Atran, S., Medin, D., & Shikaki, K. (2007). Sacred bounds on rational resolution of violent political conflict. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences., 104(18), 7357–7360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ginges, J., Hansen, I., & Norenzayan, A. (2009). Religion and support for suicide attacks. Psychological Science, 20(2), 224–230.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Ginges, J., Sheikh, H., Atran, S., & Argo, N. (2016). Thinking from God’s perspective decreases biased valuation of the life of a nonbeliever. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences., 113(2), 316–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Graham, J., & Haidt, J. (2010). Beyond beliefs: religion binds individuals into moral communities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 140–150.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108, 814–834.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Haidt J., 2007. Moral psychology and the misunderstanding of religion. The believing primate: scientific, philosophical, and theological reflections on the origin of religion. Available from: culture/haidt07/haidt07_index.html.
  33. Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  34. Halevy, N., Bornstein, G., & Sagiv, L. (2008). “In-group love” and “out-group hate” as motives for individual participation in intergroup conflict: a new game paradigm. Psychological Science, 19(4), 405–411.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Halevy, N., Weisel, O., & Bornstein, G. (2012). In group love and out group hate in repeated interaction between groups. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making., 25(2), 188–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hall, D. L., Matz, D. C., & Wood, W. (2010). Why don’t we practice what we preach? A meta-analytic review of religious racism. Personality and Social Psychology Review., 14, 126–139.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Harris, S. (2004). The end of faith: religion, terror, and the future of reason. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  38. Henrich, J. (2009). The evolution of costly displays, cooperation and religion: credibility enhancing displays and their implications for cultural evolution. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30(4), 244–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Henrich, J., Ensminger, J., McElreath, R., Barr, A., Barrett, C., Bolyanatz, A., & Cardenas, C. J. (2010). Markets, religion, community size, and the evolution of fairness and punishment. Science, 327(5972), 1480–1484.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Henrich, J. (2011). The birth of high gods how the cultural evolution of supernatural policing influenced the emergence of complex, cooperative human societies. Evolution, Culture, and the Human Mind., 119.Google Scholar
  41. Herek, G. M. (1987). Religious orientation and prejudice: a comparison of racial and sexual attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin., 13(1), 34–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hunsberger, B., & Jackson, L. M. (2005). Religion, meaning, and prejudice. Journal of Social Issues., 61(4), 807–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. International Religious Freedom Report.Jamaica. US Department of State; 2008.Google Scholar
  44. Irons, W. (1996). In our own self-image. Skeptic, 4(2), 50–52.Google Scholar
  45. Irons, W. (2001). Religion as a hard-to-fake sign of commitment. In R. Nesse (Ed.), Evolution and the capacity for commitment (pp. 292–309). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  46. Johnson, D. (2005). God’s punishment and public goods. Human Nature, 16(4), 410–446.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Juergensmeyer, M. (2003). Terror in the mind of god: the global rise of religious violence. Berkeley, CA: Univ of California Press.Google Scholar
  48. Liddle, J. R., Machluf, K., & Shackelford, T. K. (2010). Understanding suicide terrorism: premature dismissal of the religious-belief hypothesis. Evolutionary Psychology, 10, 343–345.Google Scholar
  49. McKay, R., Efferson, C., Whitehouse, H., & Fehr, E. (2011). Wrath of god: religious primes and punishment. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences., 278(1713), 1858–1863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Morgan, S. P. (1983). A research note on religion and morality: are religious people nice people? Social Forces, 61, 683–692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Norenzayan, A., & Shariff, A. F. (2008). The origin and evolution of religious prosociality. Science, 322(5898), 58–62.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Power, E. A. (2017). Discerning devotion: testing the signaling theory of religion. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 82–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Purzycki, B. G., Apicella, C., Atkinson, Q. D., Cohen, E., McNamara, R. A., Willard, A. K., & Henrich, J. (2016). Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality. Nature, 530, 327–330.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Purzycki, B. G., & Arakchaa, T. (2013). Ritual behavior and trust in the Tyva Republic. Current Anthropology., 54(3), 381–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Preston, J. L., & Ritter, R. S. (2013). Different effects of religion and God on prosociality with the in-group and out-group. Pers. Soc. Psych. Bull., 39(11), 1471–1483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Putnam, R., & Campbell, D. (2010). American grace: how religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  58. Richerson, P., Baldini, R., Bell, A., Demps, K., Frost, K., Hillis, V., & Ross, C. (2014). Cultural group selection plays an essential role in explaining human cooperation: a sketch of the evidence. Behavioral and Brain Sciences., 760, 1–71.Google Scholar
  59. Rusch, H. (2014). The evolutionary interplay of intergroup conflict and altruism in humans: a review of parochial altruism theory and prospects for its extension. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences., 281(1794), 20141539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sageman, M. (2004). Understanding terror networks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Soler, M. (2012). Costly signaling, ritual and cooperation: evidence from Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(4), 346–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sosis, R. (2000). Religion and intragroup cooperation: preliminary results of a comparative analysis of utopian communities. Cross-Cultural Research., 34(1), 70–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sosis, R., & Bressler, E. R. (2003). Cooperation and commune longevity: a test of the costly signaling theory of religion. Cross-Cultural Research., 37(2), 211–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sosis, R., Kress, H., & Boster, J. (2007). Scars for war: evaluating alternative signaling explanations for cross-cultural variance in ritual costs. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 234–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Steadman, L. B., & Palmer, C. T. (2015). Supernatural and natural selection: religion and evolutionary success. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  66. Trivers, R. (2011). The folly of fools: the logic of deceit and self-deception in human life. New York City: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  67. Trivers, R., Manning, J. T., Thornhill, R., Singh, D., & McGuire, M. (1999). Jamaican symmetry project: long-term study of fluctuating asymmetry in rural Jamaican children. Human Biology, 417–430.Google Scholar
  68. Watts C. (2016) ISIS and Al Qaeda race to the bottom. Foreign Affairs. (15 Feb. ). Web. 15 Feb. 2016.Google Scholar
  69. Welch, M. R., Sikkink, D., & Loveland, M. T. (2007). The radius of trust: religion, social embeddedness and trust in strangers. Social Forces, 86(1), 23–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. West, R. (1941). Black lamb and grey falcon: a journey through Yugoslavia. New York: The Viking Press.Google Scholar
  71. Whitley, B. E., & Kite, M. E. (2010). The psychology of prejudice and discrimination. CA. Wadsworth: Belmont.Google Scholar
  72. Wong, K. Five ways ISIS, Al Qaeda differ. Washington, D.C.: The Hill Sept 20, 2014. Web. 15 Feb. 2016. Available at: website:
  73. Wright, R. (2009). Evolution of god. New York: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  74. Ysseldyk, R., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2010). Religiosity as identity: toward an understanding of religion from a social identity perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Review., 14(1), 60–71.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Wagner CollegeStaten IslandUSA
  3. 3.Rutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations