Friday, September 11, 2009

Moral conviction and religiosity - different in the viscera

An interesting bit from Wisneski et al. :
Theory and research point to different ways moral conviction and religiosity connect to trust in political authorities to decide controversial issues of the day. Specifically, we predicted that stronger moral convictions would be associated with greater distrust in authorities such as the U.S. Supreme Court making the "right" decisions regarding controversial issues. Conversely, we predicted that stronger religiosity would be associated with greater trust in authorities. We tested these hypotheses using a survey of a nationally representative sample of Americans (N = 727) that assessed the degree to which people trusted the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the legal status of physician-assisted suicide. Results indicated that greater religiosity was associated with greater trust in the U.S. Supreme Court to decide this issue, and that stronger moral convictions about physician-assisted suicide were associated with greater distrust in the U.S. Supreme Court to decide this issue. Also, the processes underlying religious trust and distrust based on moral convictions were more quick and visceral than slow and carefully considered.


  1. I apologize but this is the article I was wanting you to comment on. I am specifically interested in the last sentence and how the authors came to that conclusion. It certainly throws an interesting thought in the religion argument.

  2. Hi Robert,

    The authors measured response times to the questions asked, because it is known that emotion laden (more visceral) responses that rise from limbic areas of the brain are more rapid than more reflective, cognitive, rule related responses that are more the province of the prefrontal cortex. They found that people motivated more by religious than moral convictions responded more rapidly to the questions posed.

  3. ramesam6:37 AM

    The conclusions in a way confirm the ideas of possible origin of religion in human evolution. Religion served both as a binding factor for a group (allied vs. alien) and hierarchical control (placing an unquestionable authority at the top). Thus trust factor gets to play primary role. If I am not mistaken, other research work also established the role of trust in the transactions done by religiously inclined people.