Religious kids are less generous according to researchers at the University of Chicago. The team which conducted the study found that religion makes children less generous but stated that it also depends on the country as religions in other countries may be more altruistic than the ones in the U.S.
Over 1000 children participated in the study published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology. They were studied by a neurologist at the University of Chicago. His original purpose wasn’t to investigate the moral behavior of the kids, but to measure the empathic drive in different cultures.
But the results of his behavioral study indicate that children brought up in religious households possess fewer charitable traits which influence altruism and generosity. The children had to play a “dictatorship game” in order to measure their levels of altruism.
Each child was given thirty stickers and was told to share them however he or she wants to. This was done to observe the children’s natural choice and measure their generosity. The children who took part in the study were prepubescent and came from several countries such as the U.S., China, Canada, Turkey, South Africa and Jordan.
Children with Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or agnostic background were not part of the study. The majority of the kids who did take part in the research were either from Christian or Muslim backgrounds or from secular households.
Surprisingly, the neurosurgeon studying the children observed and interesting fact: the children that came from secular backgrounds were more likely to share the stickers with the other kids. The Muslim kids were less generous that the Christian ones, but all of the kids from religious households seemed less inclined to share than the ones hailing from secular ones.
What was of major importance was that subjects from all of the three groups, so from Muslim, Christian and secular backgrounds, tended to become less and less inclined to share and to be generous as they grew and reached adulthood. And the religious groups turned out to be the least generous.
What was measured besides generosity and altruism was the variety of reactions children had when confronting issues connected to meanness. A video clip was made showing someone doing mild harm to others and was then presented to the kids. They were asked to rate it on a scale.
The Muslim kids considered the actions very mean and wanted severe punishments just like the Christian kids. The secular children were not as judgmental and did not favor harsh punishments.
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