Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Heaven can wait. How religion modulates temporal discounting

This is a journal abstract I came across

Paglieri, Fabio, Anna M. Borghi, Lorenza S Colzato, Bernhard Hommel & Claudia Scorolli. 2013. Heaven can wait. How religion modulates temporal discounting. Psychological Research 77(6). 738–747.


Evidence suggests that religious systems have specific effects on attentional and action control processes. The present study investigated whether religions also modulate choices that involve higher-order knowledge and the delay of gratification in particular. Researchers tested Dutch Calvinists, Italian Catholics, and Atheists from both countries/cultures using an intertemporal choice task where participants could choose between a small immediate and a larger delayed monetary reward. Based on the Calvinist theory of predestination and the Catholic concept of a cycle of sin-confession-expiation, the authors predicted a reduced delay tolerance, i.e., higher discount rate, for Italian Catholics than for Dutch Calvinists, and intermediate rates for the two atheist groups. Analyses of discount rates support the hypotheses. The authors also found a magnitude effect on temporal discounting and faster responses for large than for small rewards across religions and countries/cultures. They conclude that temporal discounting is specifically modulated by religious upbringing rather than by generic cultural differences.