Luke Galen, Ross Gore and I have just published an article in the journal Secularism & Nonreligion on “modeling the effects of religious belief and affiliation on prosociality.”
It is open access and so free online here. The article is part of a special issue on computer modeling of secularism and nonreligion, and you can see other related articles here.
Here is the abstract:
“To what extent do supernatural beliefs, group affiliation, and social interaction produce values and behaviors that benefit others, i.e., prosociality? Addressing this question involves multiple variables interacting within complex social networks that shape and constrain the beliefs and behaviors of individuals. We examine the relationships among some of these factors utilizing data from the World Values Survey to inform the construction of an Agent-Based Model. The latter was able to identify the conditions under which – and the mechanisms by which – the prosociality of simulated agents was increased or decreased within an “artificial society” designed to reflect real world parameters. The combined results indicated that prosociality was more related to agents’ group affiliation and social networks than to their worldview beliefs. It also showed that prosociality changed as a function of agents’ worldviews, group affiliation, and social network properties. Individuals with supernatural worldviews had higher levels of active prosociality, but this was primarily directed toward ingroup members. Naturalistic believers and the unaffiliated, on the other hand, tended to have higher levels of trust and tolerance. We describe the potential usefulness of such modeling techniques for addressing complex problems in the study of secularity and nonreligion.”