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Canada: Is religion important to you? Is that the truth?

October 23, 2013

Researcher is ‘surprised’ that religious people lie more than others; clearly he hasn’t been following rationalist discussion groups.

Childs’ experiment featured 400 students drawn from introductory economics classes at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. After providing basic biographical information, they were paired off and assigned to play the role of either “sender” or “receiver.”

Senders were informed that the pair would receive a total of two payments: $5 and $15 in some cases, $5 and $7 in others. They would receive one of the amounts, while the receiver collected the other.

They were then told to send a message to the receiver, who sat in a nearby room, informing him or her of which payoff was greater. The receiver would presumably then choose to take the more lucrative one, leaving the sender stuck with the lower amount.

Unless, of course, he or she chose to fib.

So who lied for personal financial gain? “We find that sex, age, grade point average, student debt, size of return, socioeconomic status, and average time spent in religious observation are not related to the decision to lie,” Childs writes in the journal Economics Letters….

Among those more likely to lie for financial gain were:…

• Those for whom religion was more important to their lives. “This is surprising,” Childs writes,

Salon.com

But why? It’s not really surprising if some people believe they can get away with anything if they really thought the Head Honcho of the Universe was on their side. I know I would. And there’s the cause and effect issue — does religion make people more likely to lie, or do people who are more likely to lie gravitate to religion?

All the usual caveats apply, of course, about taking a single piece of research too seriously, which is very seriously at all. Still, it’s an interesting result. 

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