Thinking About God Discourages Dehumanization of Religious Outgroups

Julia M. Smith, Michael H. Pasek, Allon Vishkin, Kathryn A. Johnson, Crystal Shackleford, Jeremy Ginges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In seven studies, six with American Christians and one with Israeli Jews (total N = 2,323), we examine how and when belief in moralizing gods influences dehumanization of ethno-religious outgroups. We focus on dehumanization because it is a key feature of intergroup conflict. In Studies 1–6, participants completed measures of dehumanization from their own perspectives and also from the perspective of God, rating the groups’ humanity as they thought God would rate it, or wish for them to rate it. When participants completed measures from both their own and God’s perspectives, they reported believing that, compared with their own views, God would see (or prefer for them to see) outgroup members as more human. In Study 7, we extend these findings by demonstrating that thinking about God’s views reduces the extent to which religious believers personally dehumanize outgroup members. Collectively, results demonstrate that religious believers attribute universalizing moral attitudes to God, compared to themselves, and document how thinking about God’s views can promote more positive intergroup attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Dehumanization
  • Intergroup relations
  • Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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