Laboratory experiment as a part of the religious studies scholar's toolkit

Investor logo


Year of publication 2015
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description After introducing the strengths and weaknesses of the social-scientific laboratory experiment, I will focus on its ability to decide between competing hypotheses. I will argue that Religious Studies can use it for the same purpose. As a showcase, I will use the hotly debated issue of religious prosociality, an issue in evolutionary research on religion. Here, rival hypotheses compete for supporting empirical evidence (increased cooperation, generosity, reciprocity, trust and altruism; reduced cheating, etc.). One hypothesis considers religious prosociality to be an expression of parochial in-group favouritism, suggesting that it is a mere by-product of our coalitional psychology. The other sees religious prosociality as extending even to out-groups, arguing that it might be an adaptation. I will use this case as an example of how highly influential wide-ranging theories boil down to empirical testing and how experimental research can in the end play the essential role of an arbiter.
Related projects:

You are running an old browser version. We recommend updating your browser to its latest version.