Religious people discount the future less

Evan C. Carter, Michael McCullough, Jungmeen Kim-Spoon, Carolina Corrales, Adam Blake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The propensity for religious belief and behavior is a universal feature of human societies, but religious practice often imposes substantial costs upon its practitioners. This suggests that during human cultural evolution, the costs associated with religiosity might have been traded off for psychological or social benefits that redounded to fitness on average. One possible benefit of religious belief and behavior, which virtually every world religion extols, is delay of gratification-that is, the ability to forego small rewards available immediately in the interest of obtaining larger rewards that are available only after a time delay. In this study, we found that religious commitment was associated with a tendency to forgo immediate rewards in order to gain larger, future rewards. We also found that this relationship was partially mediated by future time orientation, which is a subjective sense that the future is very close in time and is approaching rapidly. Although the effect sizes of these associations were relatively small in magnitude, they were obtained even when controlling for sex and the Big Five personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-231
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2012

Fingerprint

Reward
Religion
religion
social benefit
Cultural Evolution
Costs and Cost Analysis
cost
Aptitude
gender
fitness
Personality
Psychology
Religious Beliefs
Costs

Keywords

  • Delay discounting
  • Delay of gratification
  • Evolution
  • Hyperbolic discounting
  • Impulsivity
  • Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Religious people discount the future less. / Carter, Evan C.; McCullough, Michael; Kim-Spoon, Jungmeen; Corrales, Carolina; Blake, Adam.

In: Evolution and Human Behavior, Vol. 33, No. 3, 01.05.2012, p. 224-231.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Carter, EC, McCullough, M, Kim-Spoon, J, Corrales, C & Blake, A 2012, 'Religious people discount the future less', Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 224-231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.09.006
Carter, Evan C. ; McCullough, Michael ; Kim-Spoon, Jungmeen ; Corrales, Carolina ; Blake, Adam. / Religious people discount the future less. In: Evolution and Human Behavior. 2012 ; Vol. 33, No. 3. pp. 224-231.
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