Religion makes kids meaner

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sardia
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Religion makes kids meaner

Postby sardia » Fri Nov 06, 2015 7:39 pm UTC

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/n ... kids-study
Kids exposed to religion are meaner, demand harsher punishments, and are less empathetic than non religious kids. There's actually a dose response effect as well. As you step up religion, they get meaner and meaner. On top of that, religious parents perceived them as more empathetic. This creates a synergistic effect where the religious kids are meaner, but it isn't curbed by their parents.
Also, all those religious solicitors who thought kids without God would be degenerates, they can suck it.
Last edited by sardia on Mon Nov 09, 2015 8:16 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Lazar » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:09 pm UTC

I'd be curious to read any religious responses to this study – so far I can't find any.
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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:15 pm UTC

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Dauric » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:21 pm UTC

It's unfortunate that the Buddhist, agnostic, Hindu, and other religions were too small to make significant conclusions about. Christianity and Islam have roots in the same cultures, it would be interesting to see how an eastern faith like Buddhism stacks up given completely different cultural origins.
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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby ObsessoMom » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:27 pm UTC

I find it likely that the types of empathy-rich religious families that are inspired to show compassion to their neighbors were busy helping out at the local food bank when the researchers stopped by. Only the sanctimonious, judgmental ones were left to be studied.

Hey, it's a hypothesis.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Mutex » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:32 pm UTC

The study was done at the schools. I hope those ultra-empathic religious people didn't pull their kids out of school to help at the food bank.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Diadem » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:44 pm UTC

Seems to me like there might be a lot of cofounders there. Intelligence and education level to name two obvious ones. Non-religious people also tend to be more liberal.

That article is weird anyway:
“Overall, our findings ... contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,”

They seem to be using the little used 'completely illogical' meaning of the word commensense.

“More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development"

Wait, you just started questioning that now? Damn.
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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:50 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:They seem to be using the little used 'completely illogical' meaning of the word commensense.
Consider who funded it. And it seems like a really small sample size. 1170. From six different countries. Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Mutex » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:52 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:
“Overall, our findings ... contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,”

They seem to be using the little used 'completely illogical' meaning of the word commensense.


"Common sense" can mean "received wisdom", ie not necessarily true, but widely believed.

morriswalters wrote:Consider who funded it.


Who did? There's a quote from the UK National Secular Society but it didn't say they funded it.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby morriswalters » Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:05 pm UTC

The John Templeton Foundation
The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights.

Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton's optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation's motto, "How little we know, how eager to learn," exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.
Never heard of them. Here is the link to the paper.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Whizbang » Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:13 pm UTC

The Templeton Foundation is known for being very right/religious-leaning. If they come out with a study that seems say religion is bad, then you can be sure they are not biased against religion.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Mutex » Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:30 pm UTC

Sounds like they funded it thinking it would prove how empathic religious kids are compared to those awful atheists / secularists, and didn't even consider the possibility the answer would turn out to be the opposite.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby badmartialarts » Sat Nov 07, 2015 7:43 am UTC

I'm not sure what 'commonsense' ideas they had going into the study. I think when you take a child, tell them that they are special and that they are bound for a higher purpose than their sinful peers, that it might make a child a little more likely to disdain said sinful peers. Feeling like you have moral superiority tends to do that.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Grop » Sat Nov 07, 2015 3:47 pm UTC

It's funny they also conducted this study in China, where most people are either non-religious, or have a religion that was eventually discarded because numbers were "too small to be statistically valid".

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby sardia » Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:16 pm UTC

Mutex wrote:Sounds like they funded it thinking it would prove how empathic religious kids are compared to those awful atheists / secularists, and didn't even consider the possibility the answer would turn out to be the opposite.

It's a good thing they didn't bury the study like some foundations do.

Also I would be careful extrapolating here. While the p value is really good, it's only 1 study. I'd like some additional studies that check the aspects like how religious parents don't seem to notice how mean their kids are. Maybe it's not the religion in the kids, its the religion in the parents who possibly don't discipline their kids or raise them to be more empathetic.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Coyne » Sat Nov 07, 2015 10:12 pm UTC

Dauric wrote:It's unfortunate that the Buddhist, agnostic, Hindu, and other religions were too small to make significant conclusions about. Christianity and Islam have roots in the same cultures, it would be interesting to see how an eastern faith like Buddhism stacks up given completely different cultural origins.


Kids in the Christian and Muslim faiths are taught to discriminate--to judge--between "good" and "evil". For a child, who is usually told that such rules are black and white, judgement also would tend to be black and white; since they lack experience to understand the grayer realities of the world. (My personal experience of religoin.) They are also taught that people found "wanting" are deserving of deprivation and punishment...those things being exactly the opposites of the altruism tested by the study.

So I suspect this would hinge a lot on the type of discriminants and the penalties for "evil" taught by the faith. On that basis, and per my limited understanding of the other faiths, I would expect children of Buddhist and agnostic parents to fare somewhat better in such a study; Hindu, about the same as Christianity and Islam. I would expect kids indoctrinated in the KKK beliefs to fare far worse.

The counter-intuitive view of the parents seems easily explained by confirmation bias: my kids are good kids, therefore they must do good and not evil. We see this in extreme cases in society when a child commits a crime, and the parents refuse to believe the child has done anything wrong.

Is it any wonder that the Christian religion contains such a strong warning against judgement (Matthew 7:1-3):

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Not that anyone pays any attention to that, in my experience.
In all fairness...

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Djehutynakht » Sun Nov 08, 2015 1:59 am UTC

To be completely honest, I'm not inclined to give much credence to this single study. It reminds me of the discredited studies of old that said atheists are amoral and other such things. Just something to be smug and go "aHA!" about.


I'd be interested in seeing if there was a difference between religious families with strict structure/institution to their beliefs, and families that are just as religious, but more easy-going about it, as well as their comparisons to their non-religious counterparts.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby sardia » Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:55 am UTC

Djehutynakht wrote:To be completely honest, I'm not inclined to give much credence to this single study. It reminds me of the discredited studies of old that said atheists are amoral and other such things. Just something to be smug and go "aHA!" about.


I'd be interested in seeing if there was a difference between religious families with strict structure/institution to their beliefs, and families that are just as religious, but more easy-going about it, as well as their comparisons to their non-religious counterparts.

True science is hard, and you're right to be skeptical about a single study. But you're too quick to dismiss the study just because it doesn't jive with your predetermined biases. Complaining that this study isn't valid because a previous study isn't valid is a fallacy. You should be critiquing the methods used, not "it sounds vaguely like past discredited study".

In this study's defense, the sample size is fairly large, and the p-values are really low (.05 is worse than .01 + lower p-values are statistically valuable). I do hope other groups follow up on this.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Cradarc » Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:44 am UTC

Sardia,
You may have some bias as well. P values are hackable, and I get the feeling you didn't even read the actual paper before saying:
sardia wrote:Also, all those religious solicitors who thought kids without God would be degenerates, they can suck it.

I looked at the link provided by Morriswalters. Here are some things you probably did not notice.
1. The paper is horrendously dense, full of numbers talking about the result with very bad descriptions of where the data actually comes from.
2. Figure 2 was the only graphic that came close to showing the raw data, and it tells the reader basically nothing.
3. Religious children are apparently more sensitive when it comes to identifying interpersonal harm, but that part was glossed over.
4. Parents of religious children apparently think their children are more sensitive to injustice than parents of nonreligious households.

Religious children were deemed less altruistic based a single experiment called the "Dictator Game".
The paper provided a very brief description of what that is. So I looked at the reference they provided. In the referenced paper, the dictator game involved giving some kids stickers then asking them to donate to non-genetically related kids. Based on how many stickers each kid is willing, we can measure how altruistic they are. Seems legit.

However, for the study in question, we have this:
In this task, children were shown a set of 30 stickers and were told to choose their ten favorite. They were then told ‘‘these stickers are yours to keep.’’Children were instructed that the experimenter did not have the time to play this game with all of the children in their school, so not everyone would be able to receive stickers.

The wording is very suspicious. "the experimenter did not have the time to play this game with all of the children in their school". What does this have anything to do with the stickers?
The instructor's time is independent of how many stickers the child chooses.
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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby icanus » Mon Nov 09, 2015 3:08 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:The wording is very suspicious. "the experimenter did not have the time to play this game with all of the children in their school". What does this have anything to do with the stickers?
The instructor's time is independent of how many stickers the child chooses.

The "time constraint" is the part of the experiment that creates scarcity. Measuring how willing children are to share stickers with others who are getting their own stickers is less meaningful than measuring their willingness to share with children who have none.

I'm not getting what's particularly suspcious about the wording used in this study, given that the wording in the other study (the one that "seems legit") is:
Once a child had chosen the stickers, the child then was told that the stickers now belonged to him/her but that the child might like to give some stickers to a girl/boy in the class because the interviewer would not have time to give stickers to all children in the class.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Cradarc » Mon Nov 09, 2015 4:19 am UTC

I'm not sure how you are interpreting it.
Time constraint does produces scarcity, but it's a scarcity over which the kid has no control whatsoever. Unless the kid thinks time can be saved by choosing to keep fewer than 10 stickers, how exactly does it demonstrate altruism?
If the mailman doesn't have time to deliver mail to every house on your street, do you insist he only gives you half your mail so more people can get theirs? The kid is told they can take 10 stickers. There was nothing stated about the 30 stickers being the total supply.
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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby icanus » Mon Nov 09, 2015 4:48 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:I'm not sure how you are interpreting it.
Time constraint does produces scarcity, but it's a scarcity over which the kid has no control whatsoever. Unless the kid thinks time can be saved by choosing to keep fewer than 10 stickers, how exactly does it demonstrate altruism?
If the mailman doesn't have time to deliver mail to every house on your street, do you insist he only gives you half your mail so more people can get theirs? The kid is told they can take 10 stickers. There was nothing stated about the 30 stickers being the total supply.

Likewise, I don't understand how you're interpreting it - seems pretty intuitive to me:

The "not enough time" line is the mechanism both studies used - "not enough stickers" would probably also work, though I suspect it was rejected so as to not skew the children's perception of the value of a sticker.

The point is to create a situation in which the child is given stickers, and believes some other children will not be. The child can influence the distribution of stickers, by opting to either give or not give stickers away - which is what they were trying to measure. I'm not sure how you think the experiment would operate if every child believed that all their peers were also going to be getting 10 stickers.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Chen » Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:52 pm UTC

The supplemental information gives more of a description of the Dictator game:

Children’s Dictator Game: This tabletop, modified version of the standard dictator game is designed to assess altruism/generosity in children (S4) and was run by trained research assistants. In this task, children were shown a set of 30 stickers and told to choose their 10 favorite. They were then told “these stickers are yours to keep.” Children were instructed that the experimenter did not have the time to play this game with all of the children in the school, so not everyone would be able to receive stickers. Children were finally shown a set of envelopes and informed that they could give some of their stickers to another child who would not be able to play this game by putting them in one envelope and they could put the stickers they wanted to keep in the other envelope. Experimenters turned around during the child’s choice and children were instructed to inform the experimenter when they were finished. Altruism was calculated as the number of stickers shared out of 10. A full description of the tasks is available in (S4).


The average stickers given were:
4.09 -> Non-religious
3.33 -> Christian
3.20 -> Muslim

They also mentioned that aside religious identification, age and country were significant predictors of sharing behavior. I don't see the actual data for that though. Figure 2 which is the scatter graph seems to have included age in it as well, but damn that data looks ALL over the place.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Nov 09, 2015 4:42 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:I'm not sure how you are interpreting it.
Time constraint does produces scarcity, but it's a scarcity over which the kid has no control whatsoever. Unless the kid thinks time can be saved by choosing to keep fewer than 10 stickers, how exactly does it demonstrate altruism?
If the mailman doesn't have time to deliver mail to every house on your street, do you insist he only gives you half your mail so more people can get theirs? The kid is told they can take 10 stickers. There was nothing stated about the 30 stickers being the total supply.


The kid isn't expected to fix the researcher's lack of time. It's a means for explaining "you get stickers, your classmates have none", so the child addresses the lack of stickers among classmates.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Cradarc » Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:11 pm UTC

Chen wrote:The supplemental information gives more of a description of the Dictator game:

Children’s Dictator Game: This tabletop, modified version of the standard dictator game is designed to assess altruism/generosity in children (S4) and was run by trained research assistants. In this task, children were shown a set of 30 stickers and told to choose their 10 favorite. They were then told “these stickers are yours to keep.” Children were instructed that the experimenter did not have the time to play this game with all of the children in the school, so not everyone would be able to receive stickers. Children were finally shown a set of envelopes and informed that they could give some of their stickers to another child who would not be able to play this game by putting them in one envelope and they could put the stickers they wanted to keep in the other envelope. Experimenters turned around during the child’s choice and children were instructed to inform the experimenter when they were finished. Altruism was calculated as the number of stickers shared out of 10. A full description of the tasks is available in (S4).


Ah, okay. That makes much more sense now. The initial description was not helpful at all. Why were there 30 stickers though? If the child is only allowed to share the 10 stickers they picked, why give them 20 extra?

Also, I believe the sample demographic is spread across multiple countries. I don't recall seeing anything about controlling the number of religious to non-religious proportion within each country. For example, Chinese people tend to be more non-religious, and they live in a culture that is more inclined sharing.
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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Zamfir » Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:28 pm UTC

That makes much more sense now. The initial description was not helpful at all. Why were there 30 stickers though? If the child is only allowed to share the 10 stickers they picked, why give them 20 extra?


They are nog given 30 stickers, they are shown 30 and van pick 10. At a guess, this is done to increase the perceived value of the 10 stickers. Give the kid 10 without choice , they might decide that 5 are ugly anyway and give those away
The choice makes the 10 chosen stickers more personal, and hence giving them away is a more meaningful step.

For example, imagine that some stckers are seen as 'for boys' or 'for , or otherwise inappropriate. Then a boy might give away girly stickers to avoid the association, without much intention to help the receiving kid. Such effects add noise to the study.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby cphite » Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:48 pm UTC

sardia wrote:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/06/religious-children-less-altruistic-secular-kids-study

Kids exposed to religion are meaner, demand harsher punishments, and are less empathetic than non religious kids.


According to this one study they are approximately 1/2 sticker "meaner" than kids who are not, on an aggregate scale. It'd be interesting to see the highs and lows; are there subsets of religious kids who give away a lot more or less stickers, or are they generally giving away fewer?

There's actually a dose response effect as well. As you step up religion, they get meaner and meaner.


What does the term "step up" actually mean? Is there a difference between kids who are in families who are strong believers versus families who use religion as a disciplinary tool, for example? Are cultural differences taken into account? Some cultures are more or less strict than others regarding discipline and punishment, with or without religious belief.

On top of that, religious parents perforce them as more empathetic. This creates a synergistic effect where the religious kids are meaner, but it isn't curbed by their parents.


I'd be interested to see how they measured what the parents perceive about their kids empathy.

Also, all those religious solicitors who thought kids without God would be degenerates, they can suck it.


At least you aren't biased :roll:

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby mcd001 » Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:35 pm UTC

I just went and looked at the actual study, and it left me scratching my head.

First, there's not a lot of detail on the methodology used. For example, in the 'Dictator Game', kids were allowed to pick 10 stickers and told that not everyone would be able to receive stickers. There was no information on the mechanism used for the kids to volunteer their stickers to others. I'd be interested in how that was done. Did they follow the kids around at recess to observe who they gave stickers to? Was it 'suggested' to the kids by the investigators? (and if so, were steps taken to prevent unconscious bias from influencing the results?)

Then there is figure 4. (Parents of Children from Christian Households View Their Children as More Sensitive to Injustices toward Others), and I find myself wondering why that particular finding is even part of the study, since it seems to have nothing to do with the topic or other reported findings. It's inclusion only causes me to question the rest of this study's design.

Then there is this statement from the study:
They (Children from religious households) also believe that interpersonal harm is more ‘‘mean’’ and deserving of harsher punishment than non-religious children. Thus, children who are raised in religious households frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions, while being less altruistic toward another child from the same social environment, at least when generosity is spontaneously directed to an ambiguous beneficiary.

So the kid who thinks behavior like pushing and bumping is 'mean' is rated as being LESS altruistic than the kid who thinks it's NOT 'mean' to push and bump others. Really? This seems backwards to me, and again leaves me questioning the validity of the rest of the study.

Figure 2. (Relation between Overall Religiousness, Altruism, and Age in 1,151 Children across Six Countries) is the only place I could find any of the actual data. It's almost impossible to read this 3-D chart on the 2-D screen, but the data appears to be all over the place. The actual data in tabular form does not appear to be available anywhere.

Other things that trouble me about this study: A small sample size, and a non-random sampling that render the statistical tests meaningless (the null hypothesis, or the hypothesis that results are purely due to random chance, can't apply if the test group was not randomly selected). There were also no apparent controls for the sex of the child, which could very well be significant if there were any differences between boys and girls in the study's definition of 'altruism'. (Such a difference would not surprise me).

Given these issues with the study, I am highly skeptical of the results, and even more skeptical of the bold statement the authors make that "our findings cast light on the cultural input of religion on prosocial behavior and contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others."

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:56 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:I just went and looked at the actual study, and it left me scratching my head.

First, there's not a lot of detail on the methodology used. For example, in the 'Dictator Game', kids were allowed to pick 10 stickers and told that not everyone would be able to receive stickers. There was no information on the mechanism used for the kids to volunteer their stickers to others. I'd be interested in how that was done. Did they follow the kids around at recess to observe who they gave stickers to? Was it 'suggested' to the kids by the investigators? (and if so, were steps taken to prevent unconscious bias from influencing the results?)


There is, it's literally just been discussed upthread. The methodology for that seems sound.

Then there is figure 4. (Parents of Children from Christian Households View Their Children as More Sensitive to Injustices toward Others), and I find myself wondering why that particular finding is even part of the study, since it seems to have nothing to do with the topic or other reported findings. It's inclusion only causes me to question the rest of this study's design.


Perception doesn't match the effect, it makes the study punchier if you can make it "surprising". This is pretty routine, really. Everyone wants their study to look more impressive than "rehash of shit everyone already knows".

Then there is this statement from the study:
They (Children from religious households) also believe that interpersonal harm is more ‘‘mean’’ and deserving of harsher punishment than non-religious children. Thus, children who are raised in religious households frequently appear to be more judgmental of others’ actions, while being less altruistic toward another child from the same social environment, at least when generosity is spontaneously directed to an ambiguous beneficiary.

So the kid who thinks behavior like pushing and bumping is 'mean' is rated as being LESS altruistic than the kid who thinks it's NOT 'mean' to push and bump others. Really? This seems backwards to me, and again leaves me questioning the validity of the rest of the study.


The altruism rating is based on actual actions, not words. Someone who is more giving is more altruistic, regardless of what they say on a test.

If there's a problem in the study, this is definitely not it.

Other things that trouble me about this study: A small sample size, and a non-random sampling that render the statistical tests meaningless (the null hypothesis, or the hypothesis that results are purely due to random chance, can't apply if the test group was not randomly selected). There were also no apparent controls for the sex of the child, which could very well be significant if there were any differences between boys and girls in the study's definition of 'altruism'. (Such a difference would not surprise me).


Even if the effect is, oddly enough, gendered, that's a question for a follow-on study. It's not really that relevant for this, I don't know why you'd expect it. Discovering that say, only boys become less altrustic when exposed to religion would be interesting additional information in any case, but it only provides additional detail, it does not disprove the effect.

Also note that 1170 children is not a particularly small sample size, and their results are statistically significant at that number. There *could* still be an error, but you can't conclude that from sample size alone...you'd need to show evidence of p-hacking or something, and that doesn't seem to be present.

Given these issues with the study, I am highly skeptical of the results, and even more skeptical of the bold statement the authors make that "our findings cast light on the cultural input of religion on prosocial behavior and contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others."


These are really strange issues. If the study has problems, it's probably not the above. Those issues are just "doing science".

If you're looking for issues, you should probably start by examining rates of religiousity in each country, and seeing if the countries themselves differ in altruistic behavior. Repeating the study within a single country would suffice to strongly support that cultural variance isn't to blame. Someone will probably try that soon enough, I imagine.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby mcd001 » Tue Nov 10, 2015 3:07 am UTC

So the kid who thinks behavior like pushing and bumping is 'mean' is rated as being LESS altruistic than the kid who thinks it's NOT 'mean' to push and bump others. Really? This seems backwards to me, and again leaves me questioning the validity of the rest of the study.
The altruism rating is based on actual actions, not words. Someone who is more giving is more altruistic, regardless of what they say on a test.

If there's a problem in the study, this is definitely not it.

Tyndmyr, there were two different components to the study, one to measure altruism and one to measure meaness. I was commenting on the meaness component, not the altruism (sharing stickers) one.

Tyndmyr wrote:Even if the effect is, oddly enough, gendered, that's a question for a follow-on study. It's not really that relevant for this, I don't know why you'd expect it.

So, if it turned out (for example) that 60% of the religious kids were boys and 60% of the non-religious kids were girls, you'd have no issues with the findings? Interesting.

Tyndmyr wrote:There *could* still be an error, but you can't conclude that from sample size alone...

I was looking at more than just sample size. And when you subdivide the kids by ethnic, cultural and national groupings (such as chicago christians or turkish muslims) the samples are even smaller.

Tyndmyr wrote:you'd need to show evidence of p-hacking or something, and that doesn't seem to be present.

Given the lack of data and details in this study, it would be impossible to find that even if it was there.

Tyndmyr wrote:These are really strange issues. If the study has problems, it's probably not the above. Those issues are just "doing science".

Where I come from, 'doing science' requires a little more rigor than I found in this. More detail of methodology, design of the study, rationale for the design, how subjects are selected to insure randomness, and (most of all) the actual data in tables that allow others to verify the calculations.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Chen » Tue Nov 10, 2015 12:40 pm UTC

I mentioned this upthread but one of the big problems I saw is that they mention that, in addition to religious inclination, both age and country are significant predictors of altruism. While the age thing seem to be already known, they don't specify the age ranges for each religious bracket AND they don't specify the countries that each of those religious brackets encompass. If, for example, Turkey is shown to be less sharing inclined, do we attribute that to the country or the fact that the samples from there are probably highly composed of Muslim people.

Also considering them mentioned country was a significant predictor of altruism I gotta wonder why it's acceptable to say "Religious people are meaner than non-religious people" but (again as an example since I didn't see the actual country numbers) "People from Turkey meaner than people from Canada."

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Nov 10, 2015 4:39 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Even if the effect is, oddly enough, gendered, that's a question for a follow-on study. It's not really that relevant for this, I don't know why you'd expect it.

So, if it turned out (for example) that 60% of the religious kids were boys and 60% of the non-religious kids were girls, you'd have no issues with the findings? Interesting.


No. I'd be interested to see such a gender bias in religion at that age, and be further curious as to the cause.

Tyndmyr wrote:There *could* still be an error, but you can't conclude that from sample size alone...

I was looking at more than just sample size. And when you subdivide the kids by ethnic, cultural and national groupings (such as chicago christians or turkish muslims) the samples are even smaller.


Sure. So, there's a lot of value in follow on studies, particularly same culture/country.

But you also need this sort of study to make broad statements about religion as a whole, rather than just a specific religion, and frankly, doing multi-country studies poses some difficulties, especially if you start scaling up all the individual sample sizes. So, a smaller initial study makes sense. Follow up only if interesting results are obtained.

Tyndmyr wrote:These are really strange issues. If the study has problems, it's probably not the above. Those issues are just "doing science".

Where I come from, 'doing science' requires a little more rigor than I found in this. More detail of methodology, design of the study, rationale for the design, how subjects are selected to insure randomness, and (most of all) the actual data in tables that allow others to verify the calculations.


It is a little terse, sure. The country thing is the biggest hole I see. Stuff like gender is pretty basic, and while we don't have explicit confirmation that it's accounted for, it would be kind of odd for them to miss a massive gender divide or something. And, given the folks behind it, it seems unlikely to be a hit piece, so I'm not overly worried about that.

Chen wrote:Also considering them mentioned country was a significant predictor of altruism I gotta wonder why it's acceptable to say "Religious people are meaner than non-religious people" but (again as an example since I didn't see the actual country numbers) "People from Turkey meaner than people from Canada."


Saying the latter does feel mean somehow, but...it could be true. If you've got a scientific study showing that, well, I don't have a problem with it being said.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby mcd001 » Tue Nov 10, 2015 5:59 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Even if the effect is, oddly enough, gendered, that's a question for a follow-on study. It's not really that relevant for this, I don't know why you'd expect it.

mcd001 wrote:
So, if it turned out (for example) that 60% of the religious kids were boys and 60% of the non-religious kids were girls, you'd have no issues with the findings? Interesting.

Tyndmyr wrote:
No. I'd be interested to see such a gender bias in religion at that age, and be further curious as to the cause.

Which misses the point. If the study had a lopsided ratio in gender between the two groups (religious/non-religious), how could you state (as this study does) that the differences reported are due to religion? You can't rule out that the results may be gender-based if you don't account for it in your methodology. Of course, if you did, you might find out that boys are meaner and less altruistic than girls. (Or vice versa. That would be... awkward.)

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Nov 10, 2015 6:06 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Even if the effect is, oddly enough, gendered, that's a question for a follow-on study. It's not really that relevant for this, I don't know why you'd expect it.

mcd001 wrote:
So, if it turned out (for example) that 60% of the religious kids were boys and 60% of the non-religious kids were girls, you'd have no issues with the findings? Interesting.

Tyndmyr wrote:
No. I'd be interested to see such a gender bias in religion at that age, and be further curious as to the cause.

Which misses the point. If the study had a lopsided ratio in gender between the two groups (religious/non-religious), how could you state (as this study does) that the differences reported are due to religion? You can't rule out that the results may be gender-based if you don't account for it in your methodology. Of course, if you did, you might find out that boys are meaner and less altruistic than girls. (Or vice versa. That would be... awkward.)


Either is possible.

But, as I said before, the adoption of religion by one gender earlier would be curious and unexpected. Particularly the less altruistic gender.

It's still fascinating, it's just different, and one wishes to dig further into why.

However, I do not expect there is actually a significant difference in kids with regard to religiousity and gender, and would find it particularly odd if such an effect was found at all the locations studied.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Zamfir » Tue Nov 10, 2015 6:30 pm UTC


I mentioned this upthread but one of the big problems I saw is that they mention that, in addition to religious inclination, both age and country are significant predictors of altruism. While the age thing seem to be already known, they don't specify the age ranges for each religious bracket AND they don't specify the countries that each of those religious brackets encompass. If, for example, Turkey is shown to be less sharing inclined, do we attribute that to the country or the fact that the samples from there are probably highly composed of Muslim people.

The paper is little more than a list of statistical measures to try and correct for these influences. The usual list of linear regressions from SPSS.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby mcd001 » Tue Nov 10, 2015 6:36 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:However, I do not expect there is actually a significant difference in kids with regard to religiousity and gender, and would find it particularly odd if such an effect was found at all the locations studied.

I don't expect such a difference in religiosity and gender, either. But I do expect there could be very real differences in kids with regard to sharing and gender. I simply don't see that this particular study made any effort to keep that potential difference from influencing the reported results. If they didn't, then this study can't be taken seriously. If they did, then that should have been included in the reported results. Either way, it reflects poorly on the authors.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Zamfir » Tue Nov 10, 2015 7:06 pm UTC

Mcd001, why would you expect different gender ratios in the different groups? Unless you have some research that shows that religious households have significantly different gender ratios in their kids then nonreligious households?

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby mcd001 » Tue Nov 10, 2015 8:05 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Mcd001, why would you expect different gender ratios in the different groups? Unless you have some research that shows that religious households have significantly different gender ratios in their kids then nonreligious households?

My apologies to all; I seem to be having a hard time getting my point across. Let me try again:

I DON'T expect different gender ratios in any of the groups included in the study. In fact I expect that they are close to 50%, but -- and this is the point I am trying to make -- the study reports its findings without any reference to the gender composition of the groups. You could assume it was a 50% split across all groups. Your assumption could even be correct, but if it wasn't you would not be able to tell from the reported data. I think that not explicitly accounting for such a potentially significant difference in the study's methodology is indicative of poor design.

So, to recap -- I don't know if there is any gender bias in the results, yet nothing in the findings enables me to rule that out.

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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Dauric » Tue Nov 10, 2015 8:12 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Mcd001, why would you expect different gender ratios in the different groups? Unless you have some research that shows that religious households have significantly different gender ratios in their kids then nonreligious households?

My apologies to all; I seem to be having a hard time getting my point across. Let me try again:

I DON'T expect different gender ratios in any of the groups included in the study. In fact I expect that they are close to 50%, but -- and this is the point I am trying to make -- the study reports its findings without any reference to the gender composition of the groups. You could assume it was a 50% split across all groups. Your assumption could even be correct, but if it wasn't you would not be able to tell from the reported data. I think that not explicitly accounting for such a potentially significant difference in the study's methodology is indicative of poor design.

So, to recap -- I don't know if there is any gender bias in the results, yet nothing in the findings enables me to rule that out.


Unless the families in question had cultural biases to kill certain children based on gender then we can assume the standard gender distribution among children based on biological functions and move on.

There could be variability based on diet, or prolonged exposure to altitude, or any number of reasons. To eliminate all potential variables even though the expectation of the impact of those variables is close to nill would make any and all studies of pretty much anything unwieldy and unfeasible. As Tyndmyr has pointed out repeatedly, this study is an interesting launching point for further studies, not necessarily the end-point of the topic of study.
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Re: Religion makes kids meaner

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Nov 10, 2015 8:23 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Mcd001, why would you expect different gender ratios in the different groups? Unless you have some research that shows that religious households have significantly different gender ratios in their kids then nonreligious households?

My apologies to all; I seem to be having a hard time getting my point across. Let me try again:

I DON'T expect different gender ratios in any of the groups included in the study. In fact I expect that they are close to 50%, but -- and this is the point I am trying to make -- the study reports its findings without any reference to the gender composition of the groups. You could assume it was a 50% split across all groups. Your assumption could even be correct, but if it wasn't you would not be able to tell from the reported data. I think that not explicitly accounting for such a potentially significant difference in the study's methodology is indicative of poor design.

So, to recap -- I don't know if there is any gender bias in the results, yet nothing in the findings enables me to rule that out.


That stuff's usually boilerplate. So, I don't worry overmuch about it unless there's reason to be suspicious. Say, a group noted for being very adversarial to a position comes out with a similarly slanted finding, and conveniently leaves off the usual methodology. Then, sure, you look at it abit skeptically. But, I'm not seeing that motivation here, and it seems unlikely that it's something they just missed.

So, the lack of certain boilerplate doesn't bother me.

Right now, it's an interesting thing to chat about, and to postulate explanations for, maybe test them some, and see how it shakes out as we get more detail. If the goal is "religious people can suck it", well....yeah, maybe that's slightly premature celebration of a side "winning", but it is interesting, and brings up valid, interesting questions. I'd say the study was useful, certainly.


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