Who helps the samaritan? The influence of religious vs. secular primes on spontaneous helping of members of religious outgroups

Kathryn Johnson, Rabia Memon, Armeen Alladin, Adam Cohen, Morris A. Okun

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

5 Scopus citations


There is a debate as to whether religion increases prosociality. Darley and Batson's (1973) classic Good Samaritan study provided evidence against religious prosociality because priming religion among Christian seminary students did not increase the likelihood of helping an ailing confederate. Conceptually replicating this study, we primed undergraduate Christians with benevolent verses attributed to the Bible, benevolent verses attributed to U.S. statesmen, or benevolent-irrelevant quotations. Participants were given the opportunity to pick up envelopes dropped by a confederate, who was or was not wearing a hijab. In the non-hijab condition, the rate of helping did not vary across conditions. However, in the hijab wearing condition, the odds of helping were significantly lower in the control group. These results suggest that reminders of benevolence may play a role in mitigating some instances of discrimination, but that religion may be just one source of influence that can foster prosociality toward outgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-231
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Cognition and Culture
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 17 2015



  • ingroup biases
  • prosociality
  • Religion
  • spontaneous helping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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