Gervais, W. M. (2011). Finding the faithless: Perceived atheist prevalence reduces anti-atheist prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(4), 543–556.
“Study 3 demonstrated a causal relationship: Reminders of atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists.” (p 543)
“For more than 50 years, researchers have recognized a positive prejudice-outgroup size relationship: Prejudice increases against groups that have more members. … different types of prejudice might therefore be differentially affected by contextual factors such as relative outgroup size.” (p 543)
“… nonbelievers constitute the fourth largest religious group in the world, trailing only Christians, Muslims, and Hindus (Zuckerman, 2007).” (p 543)
“… recent social psychological research reveals that different outgroups are perceived to pose categorically and functionally distinct types of threats, leading to different cognitive and affective outcomes.” (p 544)
“In particular, religious people use the religious beliefs of others as heuristic cues of trustworthiness, equating religiosity with moral standing.” (p 545)
“… nearly half of Americans believe that moral living is impossible without belief in God (Pew Research Center, 2002).” (p 545)
“… collective inconspicuousness of atheists … One would expect that such an untrustworthy group would be readily apparent, as their widespread immorality would leave obvious effects. … it is possible that knowledge that atheists are both inconspicuous and numerous could force a reappraisal of the incompatible view that they are untrustworthy.” (p 545)
“… substantial anti-atheist prejudice has been demonstrated both in the United States and in Canada.” (p 545)
“… church attendance is an independent predictor of other forms of religious conflict and intolerance.” (p 546)
“… individualism/collectivism at the country level, which is perhaps the most widely studied dimension of cultural differences.” (p 546)
[Note use of Wave 4 of World Values Survey (WVS), www.worldvalues survey.org. (p 546)]
“Individualism/collectivism scores were taken from Hofstede’s website (www.geert-hofstede.com).” (p 546)
“HDI [United Nations Human Development Index] significantly predicted anti-atheist prejudice, controlling for atheist prevalence, β = –.53, t = 4.71, p < .001.” (p 546)
“Atheist prevalence was negatively related to anti-atheist prejudice among believers.” (p 547)
“Atheists may be common or rare, but what matters psychologically is whether people perceive atheists to be common or rare. This study investigated the relationship between perceived atheist prevalence and anti-atheist prejudice. In addition, this study controlled belief in God and belief in a dangerous world (BDW), two factors known to contribute to specific anti-atheist prejudice and prejudice in general, respectively.” (p 547)
“Imagined contact makes people feel generally more positively toward various outgroups (e.g., Turner & Crisp, 2010; Turner, Crisp, & Lambert, 2007).” (p 548)
“Information that atheists are actually quite common, both worldwide and in the immediate environment, reduced distrust of atheists.” (p 549)
“Overt, explicitly expressed prejudice often diverges from more subtle or implicit measures of prejudice. Although it is presently unknown whether or not there is as much stigma attached to overt expressions of anti-atheist prejudice as there is attached to overt racism or homophobia, …” (p 550)
“… across 54 countries representing most of the world’s population, anti-atheist prejudice among believers was reduced where atheists are common, even after controlling for numerous important individual and international differences (Study 1). Second, in a university sample, anti-atheist prejudice was reduced among participants who thought that atheists were more common (Study 2). Third, information about high atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists but did not affect perceptions of contact with atheists or a general attitudinal measure of prejudice (Study 3). Finally, atheist prevalence information reduced implicit atheist distrust (Study 4). Perceived atheist prevalence reduced anti-atheist prejudice.” (p 551)
“Because prejudice against various groups derives from the diverse threats that the groups are seen to pose, different prejudices might have differing relationships to a wide range of contextual factors, including relative outgroup size.” (p 552)
“At the very least the present effects appear analogous to con- tact effects, and more research on the distinction—and possible relationship—between perceived prevalence and intergroup contact is needed.” (p 552)
Gervais, W. M., Shariff, A. F., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Do you believe in atheists? Trust and anti-atheist prejudice. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Zuckerman, P. (2007). Atheism: Contemporary numbers and pat- terns. In M. Martin (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to atheism (pp. 47-65). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
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