Atheism and Prosocial Behavior: Evidence From a Laboratory Experiment

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Department of Psychology, Educational Science and Psychology Faculty, University of Tabriz,, Tabriz, Iran

2 Department of Economics, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran

3 Department of Economics, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of religion on charitable donation of atheists. We used experimental method utilizing a post-test and a control group. The population of the present study was 314 students at Sharif University of Technology recruited in the second half of 2018 semester and randomly assigned to either the experimental (n=27) or the control (n=26) group. Then subjects answered some demographic questions (i.e., age, gender, and income) and some questions from the NEO Five-Factor Inventory, and were also primed using a research-made Religious Priming Tool. Then they were given an opportunity to donate money to Mahak Charity, while keeping the record of donation amounts. At the end, they reported their religious orientation again and answered questions to check their knowledge of the objectives of the experiment. Finally, we compared the median of the donations in two groups. The data analyzed using the non-parametric Mann-Whitney test due to the abnormality of data distribution. The results showed that highlighting religion had no effect on donation of the atheists. The experiment warrants further research for the purpose of a better understanding of mechanisms influencing prosocial behavior.


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