Is There Anything Good About Atheists? Exploring Positive and Negative Stereotypes of the Religious and Nonreligious

Jordan W. Moon, Jaimie Arona Krems, Adam B. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Negative stereotypes about atheists are widespread, robust, rooted in distrust, and linked to discrimination. Here, we examine whether social perceivers in the United States might additionally hold any positive stereotypes about atheists (and corresponding negative stereotypes of the religious). Experiments 1 (N = 401) and 2 (N = 398, preregistered) used methods of intuitive stereotypes (the conjunction fallacy). People tended to stereotype atheists as fun, open-minded, and scientific—even as they harbor extreme intuitive anti-atheist prejudice in Experiment 2. Experiment 3 (N = 382) used a quasi-behavioral partner-choice paradigm, finding that most people choose atheist (vs. religious) partners in stereotype-relevant domains. Overall, results suggest that people simultaneously possess negative and also positive stereotypes about atheists, but that corresponding negative stereotypes of the religious may be even stronger. These effects are robust among the nonreligious and somewhat religious, but evidence is mixed about whether the highly religious harbor these positive stereotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1505-1516
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume12
Issue number8
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • atheism
  • intergroup
  • prejudice
  • religion
  • stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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