Religion and Social Conflict

                               By Adela Cufe

                                                              email: cufeadela@yahoo.com

Keywords: religion, social conflict, reward, in-group glorification, out-group stereotyping, intergroup processes
 

Abstract
Introduction
Method
Results
Discussion
References
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D
Appendix E
Appendix F
Relevant Links

                                                                              Abstract

The present study looked at the effect of religion and reward on social conflict.  Previous research has shown that competing groups use religious denomination as a means of intergroup demarcation thus setting a boundary between “us” and “them.”   It was hypothesized that religion and reward would increase the gap of perceived differences between groups, therefore creating an opportune environment for conflict.   Results revealed that the effects of religion and reward on group processes are present.  In-group glorification and out-group stereotyping were significantly influenced by a combination of religion, reward, and win/lose condition.  Stereotypical views were the strongest in the Religion x Win condition and lowest in the Religion x Lose condition, indicating that out-group stereotypes depend on whether the group perceives itself as the “winner” or “loser.”   In-group Glorification x Win/Lose interaction indicated that glorification was higher among “winners”.  Group cohesion was also influenced by religion and reward at a level approaching significance indicating a trend of group members’ tendency to get closer to each other as the result of the religious label and a common goal.

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                                                                            Introduction

    Many past and present conflicts carry religious connotations.  September 11th  troubled many of us and increased the salience of Islam in the minds of many Americans and Westerners.  Prejudices against Islam as a religion that sustains violence revived after 9/11 (Liyakatali, 2004).  Unfortunately, the pairing of Islam with the criminal and terrorist actions of a particular group of people has lead to adverse effects in regards to issues that pertain to the Muslim world in general.
    The division, caused by the perception of differences between in-group and other, sets boundaries between what people consider similar to them -- the in-group, and what is dissimilar -- the out-group.  According to Hogg and Hains (1996), people define themselves in terms of self-inclusive social categories, which create inter-group differentiation, stereotypic perception, and ethnocentrism (Hogg and Hains, 1996; Hogg and Williams, 2000).  These three elements play a role in the development of conflictual relationships between groups (Pruitt and Kim, 2003).  Religion, which can be an integral part of one’s identity, might be an important element along which people identify themselves and others as either similar or dissimilar.    One of the questions raised about religious identity is whether it is related to conflict between groups (social conflict).  This study aims at providing an answer to this question.
    Religion plays an important role in people’s lives – 84% of the world’s population are religious adherents and base their value system on the respective religious teaching (Quilliam, 2000).  Norms and values about what is right or wrong, good or bad, are often acquired by people through religious instructions.  As a consequence, religion can provide the basis for social group formation.
    A study of four western religions by Shwartz and Huismans (1995) indicated that religions explicitly promote tradition.  This element of religion might appeal to groups whose ethnic or national identity is threatened and are in need of group-assertion and a sense of identity rooted in the past.  Threat to the wellbeing of the group promotes group cohesion.  Conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, in the republics of the former Soviet Union, in Palestine and Israel, and Northern Ireland, all are examples of how different ethnic groups use religion as their primary element of distinguishing and preserving their group identity.
    In an analysis of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia Sells (2003) observes that victims to-be were selected on the basis of their religious affiliation: Catholicism was related to Croats, Serb Orthodoxy to Serbians, and Islam was related to Bosnians and other Slavic Muslims (a category called “Muslim” was created by the regime of Milosevic in 1980 to denote all the other Muslim people regardless of their ethnicity).
    Being categorized as Christian or Muslim might have increased the salience of a religious denomination among different individuals and the way they perceived themselves, hence leading to group cohesion.  This supposition is derived from the findings of Hogg and Turner (1987), according to whom the formation of the group and the behavior of the group are caused by self-categorization in terms of the salient social categorization (in this case-religion).
    This indicates that categorization per se has a causal role in group formation and group behavior (Hogg & Turner, 1987).  Therefore, classifying one’s group as belonging to a certain category, in this instance to a given religion, is the first and foremost step in the creation of an in-group.  Hence, one would expect that as awareness of threat to self and in-group increases, the cultural aspects that set in- and out-group apart, are likely to be more strongly emphasized by group members.
    The existence of the in-group influences the way individuals view themselves, members of their in-group, and the others (the out-group).  Thus, Sherif (1958) in his classic experiment on group processes  with boys, observed the creation of derogatory stereotypes about the out-group, the avoidance of activities involving the out-group, and a prevailing sense of glorification for their in-group.  Not only did the boys create stereotypes about the out-group, but also when they came in contact with each other, name-calling and even fights broke out (Sherif, 1958).  Since the ethnocentric view of one’s group seems to be unavoidable, then it is quite possible that people who adhere to the same religion will maintain that their worldview, their customs, and their group members are superior to other worldviews, other customs and members of the out-group.
    Various conflicts between groups of different religions can be explained in part, in terms of the attributions that people of different religions make about each other.  Religion in this case might give that extra categorical “incentive” that in other cases might be harder to find, therefore religious adherents might not need to be in each other’s presence for too long or engage in communal activities to perceive each other as “one of a kind.”  People from the same religious background might perceive each other as similar in terms of values that they adhere to, norms that they follow, thus shortening the time otherwise needed to lead to group formation.  The X religion versus Y religion category will be salient in people’s minds and that might be used as the common denominator among group members.
    Support for this statement is found in the experiment conducted by Turner, Brown, and Tajfel (1979) where participants after indicating their preference for 12 pairs of abstract paintings were placed into shape or color people groups.  After completion of a given task, participants were individually asked to distribute money to both in and out-group.  The findings indicated that even though participants did not come into contact with each other, just being placed into a given category was a sufficient reason to exhibit in-group favoritism as indicated by greater sums of money distributed to the in-group.  Based on this rationale of “inherent group favoritism” it is expected that placement in a given category will provide members of the group with a sufficient basis for favoring group members.
    In-group favoritism is seen even in the attributions that group members make to explain past and present behavior of in and out-group members.  Research that studied group attributions about the in-group’s past actions indicated that when faced with a dark side in their national history (for example when the German people were asked about the atrocities committed by the Nazis), people made internal, dispositional attributions about the out-group, and external, situational attributions about the in-group (Doosje & Branscombe, 2003).  So, the Jewish people attributed more internal responsibility to the Germans for the atrocities committed towards the Jews than the Germans attributed to members of their own group.
    This finding suggests the existence of a self serving bias – the tendency to explain one’s mistakes as situationally determined, while those of other’s as inherent tendencies (Aronson, Wilson, and Akert, 2002) -- and has implications for explaining further developments that occur in inter-group processes.  For example, the kind of attributions that are made may play a role in worsening the relationship between groups, and ultimately escalating and/or maintaining a conflict.  If both groups involved in a conflict think that the other party is inherently bad, as opposed to the in-group, which is considered to be inherently good, then the chances for a peaceful resolution are not high.  This conclusion is based on the finding that as group identity increases, the inter-group attributional bias becomes stronger (Doosje & Branscombe, 2003).  Hence, one would expect that for groups assigned to a given category, such as a religion, their sense of superiority would be stronger than that of another group which does not operate under a commonly recognized label.
    In a meta-analysis of different studies which sought to answer the question about different beliefs that lead to conflict, Eidelson and Eidelson (2003) concluded that one of the beliefs responsible was the belief in the group’s superiority.  Group superiority encompasses beliefs of group members about their moral superiority, special destiny, chosenness, and privilege (Eidelson & Eidelson, 2003).  Therefore, superiority beliefs, as a social process, seem to be related to the group members’ cognition about themselves.   This is related to Social Identity Theory (SIT), which tries to explain social processes by looking at the cognitive categorizational constructs of individuals (Hogg & Williams, 2000; Tajfel, 1969).  According to SIT, people are exposed to stereotypical information about in-group’s and out-group’s prototypical similarities and differences (Hogg & Wiliams, 2000).  Hogg and Williams argue that the assimilated prototype from the in-group is able to transform I into We, which is considered to be the collective self or social identity.
    It is social identity that plays a very important role in social cohesion.  Identifying with one group rather than another is the basis for the alliances that take place today in the political decisions of world leaders.  For example, there is a tradition in Great Britain to sustain the efforts and the actions undertaken by the US government.  It is true that both countries might share the same interests or the same ideals, but the fact that both countries share the same language and to a certain extent a religious identity, might facilitate and enhance identification with each other.  Similarly, during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, the Russians were against a NATO intervention in that country, and part of this objection might have stemmed from the identification of both Russians and Serbs as Orthodox Slavs.  Categorization from both groups as pertaining to the “Slavic people” category, probably was at the heart of perceived similarities and, hence, side-taking.
    In laboratory settings, one would expect that groups that have been assigned a religion will be more cohesive because of the salience of the label among group members.  As mentioned earlier the religious label might give people one more element on which to hold onto while the group is competing for some scarce resource.  Therefore, if two religious groups are competing to gain access to resources, the divide between these two groups might grow greater than the divide between groups who do not have a religious label.  In the present study it is expected to find greater levels of cohesiveness and identification among members of religious groups than among members of non-religious groups.
     Religion, being a highly salient element in people’s lives, plays an important role in the relationships that people form with members of the out-group.  A study about the conflict in Croatia (Kunovich & Hodson, 1999) indicated that war-related conflict directly increased in-group/out-group polarization and ethnic intolerance, and indirectly increased religiosity.  Their findings suggest that conflict is not directly caused by religiosity but rather property damage and violence affect religiosity through in-group/out-group polarization Kunovich & Hodson, 1999).  Therefore, one would expect that the likelihood of individuals’ identification with the in-group in religious terms would increase as the group loses a possible prize (a sort of “possible property damage”) to the out-group.    The authors argue that even though “the religious affiliation is only one possible boundary marker, it is highly salient and largely reliable in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as the overwhelming majority of the Croats are Catholic and the overwhelming majority of the Serbs are Orthodox” (Kunovich & Hodson, 1999).
    Group identity and group cohesiveness are important factors that contribute to conflict escalation.  According to Pruitt and Kim (2003), cohesiveness affects the behavior of the group by increasing conformity to group norms through fear of ostracism, and social pressure.  Cohesiveness leads groups to be persistent in their actions towards reaching their goals especially if they believe in the righteousness of their cause; belief in a group’s righteousness is an important element that not only leads to conflict escalation but also contributes to conflict maintenance.  Thus, one of the elements encountered in the literature concerning intractable conflicts is the belief that the group has been done an injustice (Coleman, 2003; Eidelson & Eidelson, 2003).  This belief in one’s own group suffering unjustly at the hands of another group goes hand in hand with the idea that the group not only should mobilize, but also has the right to do so.  Religious conflicts have a very strong and pervasive element of righteousness in them.  For example, Islamic fundamentalists often use these transcendent righteousness justifications (i.e. that they are doing it in the name of God) for their crimes and killings.
        Based on the literature on group processes reviewed above, it can be stated that when faced with the existence of another group that strives to reach the same goal (competition), group cohesiveness increases.  Also, group norms polarize and stereotypes and prejudice against the out-group become more prevalent.  Given what the literature tells us about the relationship between group conflict and religion, it is therefore hypothesized that as groups feel threatened of losing access to a resource, members of the group will “cling” to their group’s label as a way of mobilization of the group – hence increasing cohesiveness.  This could be more noticeable in religious than non-religious groups since in the former the label is more easily accessible.  Therefore, it is expected that religious groups will be more cohesive and express higher levels of identification than non-religious groups.
    Furthermore, because of this characteristic of “salience” coupled with the tendency of groups to mobilize in the face of threat, it is hypothesized that religious members who are threatened of not gaining access to resources, will be more cohesive then members of religious groups whose resources are not threatened.  Whereas members that pertain to a non-religious and non-threatened group will be the less cohesive, have lower prejudices against the other group then participants assigned to non-religious but threatened group.  To summarize it is predicted that the ranking (from the highest to the lowest) in cohesiveness, group identity, stereotyping, and prejudice, will be as follows:  1) religion + reward; 2) religion + no reward 3) no religion + reward; 4) no religion + no reward.

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                                                                              Method

Participants
    The participants were drawn from the student pool of general psychology and biochemistry undergraduates at a small Liberal Arts Catholic College in New Hampshire.  Given the difficulties presented with participant recruitment, five male participants were recruited through networking.  Eleven participants were male and 25 were female; their mean age was 19 years old (range 18-22 years).  The participants drawn from the student pool were given two course credits for participation.  Nothing was given and/or promised to be given to the participants recruited by networking, either before or after the study.

Materials
    Materials in this study consisted of a jigsaw puzzle, one fictitious religious description (called “The Fire” religion), a short neutral description, two Likert Scale type questionnaires, a timing device, a camera, and three suspicion check items.
    The puzzle was commercially obtained by the researcher.  It featured a picture of the DreamWorks character Shrek 2 and it contained 100 pieces.  The participants worked in groups composed between two (n=2) to four (n=4) group members.  The timed solving of the puzzle was used to manipulate the reward condition (win/lose) as explained in detail in the next section.
    The description of the religion included elements of creation and description of values and norms.  These three aspects (creation, values, and norms) were chosen because for all religions these play an important role in the rudimentary understanding of religion among believers (Quilliam, 2000; Wellman, Jr. & Tokuno, 2004).  The administration of the religion description aimed at creating some necessary grounds by which members of the group could draw information which would enhance their sense of community among them, thus increasing group identity.  The following is the description of the religion that the participants received:

The roots of “Fire” religion can be traced deep down in the history of the human  race.  Fire is the source of great blessings to our race.  During the Ice Period it was fire that kept our ancestors alive and contributed to the continuity of life on our planet.  Because of this, we adore fire as the only source and protector of life and consider life, especially human life, to be sacred.  Since life is sacred then, engaging in life-taking practices is considered to be a great sin among “Fire” followers.
The non-religious group received the neutral description below:
As she was walking down the street to go to pick up her daughter from school, Jane was thinking of the time when she was little and used to go over her grandmother’s on Sundays.  All her cousins were there and she really enjoyed spending time and playing with them.  It was quite unavoidable to be quiet in a place with so many kids, and she remembered how her grandmother, tired of all the “Sunday noise”, invented a “special game” to keep them quiet.  It basically consisted of giving one extra cookie to the kid who didn’t yell while talking to the others.
        The questionnaires used were designed by the experimenter and had good face validity.  They were designed to measure group cohesion, members’ identification with the in-group, in-group glorification and out-group stereotyping.  To avoid carry over effects parallel forms of the questionnaires were used.  This was accomplished by changing the wording of the questions, however the meaning was maintained.  Listed below are the instructions given to the participants, together with a number of questions (for the complete list of questions see Appendix A and Appendix B):

On a scale from 1 to 7 where 1=strongly agree, 2=agree, 3=somewhat agree, 4=neutral, 5=somewhat disagree, 6=disagree, 7=strongly disagree, please indicate your level of approval with each statement by circling the appropriate number.

1. Members of my group and I have similar goals. (group cohesion)
2. I consider myself to be similar to members of my own group. (identification with in-group)
Sample questions for assessing the existence of any stereotypes and prejudice against the out-group included:
1. Members of my group are better than members of the other group. (in-group glorification)
2. Members of the other group are less efficient. (stereotype).
The timing devise used to score the puzzle completion task was an Aquatech alarm stopwatch commercially provided by the experimenter.  Also utilized in this research was a GPT Parker Vision video camera to record participant’s behavior during the puzzle completion task.
     The suspicion check items (see Appendix F) aimed at discovering whether participants in the study were aware of the study’s hypothesis.  It was decided in advance that in case the suspicion check would indicate the presence of such knowledge in a participant, then data gathered from that particular subject would be discarded.

Procedure
    The study took place in the waiting room of the laboratory of the psychology department in the college.   In the sign up sheet the experimenter had described the study as “Group processes during problem solving activities”.  The same was verbally told to the other participants recruited by networking by the researcher.  Once the study started, all the participants, depending on which group they were assigned to, were given the appropriate study description.  The descriptions were the same expect for the independent variables (see Results section).  Here is the study description for the no-religion + no reward condition (for the other descriptions see Appendix D):

The study that you are about to participate focuses on group processes during problem solving activities.  You and members of your group will be given to solve a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and your time will be recorded and then compared to that of another group similar to yours.  However, before you begin solving the puzzle you will read a story.  Then you will be asked to answer a questionnaire.  After the questionnaire will be completed, you should solve the puzzle in group.  When the puzzle is put together, the experimenter will  compare your time with that of the other similar group, and the result will be announced.  Please be advised that regardless of your time you will receive two credits.  After the results are announced you will be administered another questionnaire.  Upon completion please stay in your place and wait for the experimenter’s directions.
   In total there were four conditions – religion/reward; religion/no-reward; no religion/reward; no religion/no reward.  The religious groups were the ones that were administered the religious description mentioned above, whereas the non-religious groups were administered the neutral story.
The reward condition was manipulated by leading the participants to believe that they would receive one credit versus two (depending on whether they lost or won respectively) for completion of the puzzle task.  Participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions in groups of 2-5.
    After reading the study description participants were then given to read and sign the Informed Consent Form of the college (see Appendix E).  Once the participants signed the Informed Consent Form, they were administered the first questionnaire, then were given to solve the puzzle under timed conditions.  The experimenter stopped the time and announced it to the participants.  Then she said that she was going to check the other’s group time and went into another room.  Then she came back and depending on whether the group was a “winner” or a “loser” announced that they either “won” or “lost”.  After the announcement the second questionnaire and then the suspicion check were administered (see Appendix F).  When everyone had finished answering the questions, the experiment was considered to be over and the participants were fully debriefed (see Appendix C) and their questions answered.  All of them, with the exception of participants recruited through networking, were given two class credits for participation.

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                                                                            Results

    Out of the total number of participants, (N=36), 47% were in the reward condition, 53% in the no-reward condition, 53% were assigned to the religious groups whereas 47% to the no-religious groups.  Fifty five percent of the participants were told that they won, while 44% were told that they lost.  Suspicion checks indicated that all the participants were completely blind at the hypothesis of the study.  A 2 (religion/no religion) x 2(reward, no reward) x 2 (win, lose) between subjects ANOVA was conducted for each of the dependent variables (see below).

Independent Variables
    There were three independent variables in this experiment: Religious affiliation (two levels: “Fire” religion and no-religion), reward (two levels: reward and no-reward), and win/lose condition.

 Dependent Variables
    The dependent variables were: group cohesion, group identification, in-group glorification, and out-group stereotyping as assessed through the items on the experimenter generated questionnaire.  The first three questions of the questionnaires (see Appendix A and Appendix B) measured group cohesion, questions 4-6 measured identification with group members, questions 7-9 measured in-group glorification, and the last three questions measured out-group stereotyping.  Items were averaged to create an overall index for each variable.  Internal consistency analyses for each measure for Questionnaire 1 were as follows: a = .6087 for group cohesion, a= .8454 for identification with group members, a = .7159 for in-group glorification, a = .8463 for the out-group stereotyping.  Whereas, internal consistency analyses for Questionnaire 2 were: a = .7629 for group cohesion, a = .9023 for identification with group members, a = .8231 for in-group glorification, a = .8406 for the out-group stereotyping.

Table 1
Means of In-Group Cohesion in Reward x Religion Conditions


Reward             Religion        Cohesion                     Mean                     Std. Error

Yes                      Yes               Time 1                        2.533                        .208
                                                 Time 2                        2.700                        .387
Yes                      No                Time 1                        3.067                        .275
                                                 Time 2                        2.600                        .513
No                       Yes               Time 1                        2.375                        .221
                                                 Time 2                        1.592                        .411
No                        No               Time 1                        2.233                        .208
                                                 Time 2                        2.233                        .387


    The ANOVA for group cohesion indicated an interaction [Cohesion x Reward x Religion] that approached significance F(1)=3.45, p=0.074.  As the data in Table 1 indicate, participants in the Religion x Reward condition were more cohesive the first time they took the test than participants in the No Religion x Reward condition (2.533 versus 3.067, respectively) (see Table 1).  However, the second time groups answered the questionnaire they show almost the same level of cohesiveness (M=2.700 for the Religion x Reward versus M=2.600 for the No Religion x Reward group).
    The No Reward x Religion condition exhibited the greatest level of cohesiveness (M=1.592 the second time they answered the questionnaire) (see Table 1).  Such a score is almost the mid-point between “strongly agree” and “agree” and is in partial agreement with the hypothesis.  It is partial agreement, because in accordance with the hypothesis of the study, the highest level of cohesiveness should have been reached in the Religion x Reward condition.  The hypothesis was supported for the No Reward x No Religion group who did not indicate any change in cohesiveness from the first to the second time they took the test.
    For the stereotypical out-group views variable, religion and win/lose conditions interacted significantly (F(1)=4.854, p=.036) (see Table 2).  Also a significant interaction was found for Stereotypes x Reward x Religion x Win/Lose conditions (F(1)=5.768, p=0.023) (see Table 3).

Table 2
Means of Stereotypical Views of Out-Group for Religion x Win/Lose Interaction



Religion             Win/Lose           Stereotypical Views            Mean             Std. Error
Yes                     Win                       Time 1                              3.867                 .358
                                                         Time 2                              2.500                 .342
                           Lose                      Time 1                              4.450                 .380
                                                         Time 2                              4.417                 .362
No                      Win                       Time 1                              3.600                 .358
                                                         Time 2                              3.667                 .342
                           Lose                      Time 1                              4.017                 .474
                                                         Time 2                              3.567                 .452

    The Religion x Lose group held the least stereotypical views towards the out-group.  Their mean score was around 4.4 indicating neutrality headed towards mild  disagreement (5=somewhat disagree) on out-group stereotypical views (see Table 2).  This does not lend support to the hypothesis that religion will lead to more stereotypical views.  The No Religion x Win group (see Table 2) also did not show much fluctuation in their views from the first to the second time they answered the questionnaires (M=3.600 at time 1 and 3.667 at time 2).  Moreover, the nature of their score indicates (3=somewhat disagree, 4=neutral) that their score was heading toward neutrality i.e. they did not hold strong stereotypical views.  Also, the No Religion x Lose group’s scores (see Table 2) does not indicate the presence of strong stereotypes.  In sum, the results obtained from the non-religious groups are in partial accordance with the hypothesis and, hence do lend some support to the statement that non-religious groups will exhibit less stereotypical views towards the out-group.
    For the Reward x Religion x Win condition stereotypical views were strengthened from the first to the second time the participants answered the questionnaires.  The Reward x No Religion x Win group and No Reward x No Religion x Lose group seem to maintain almost similar levels of stereotypical views (see Table 3), thus not supporting the hypothesis that the Religion x Reward x Win condition would maintain the highest level of stereotypical views.

Table 3
Means of Stereotypical Views in Reward x Religion x Win/Lose Conditions



Reward      Religion     Win/Lose     Stereotypical Views      Mean       Std. Error
Yes            Yes              Win                       Time 1                   4.600        `   .506
                                                                    Time 2                   3.400            .483
                                       Lose                     Time 1                   4.733            .506
                                                                    Time 2                   4.333            .483
Yes            No                Win                      Time 1                   4.267            .506
                                                                    Time 2                   3.467            .483
                                       Lose                     Time 1                   3.500            .801
                                                                    Time 2                   3.667            .764
No             Yes               Win                      Time 1                   3.133            .506
                                                                    Time 2                   1.600            .483
                                       Lose                     Time 1                   4.167            .566
                                                                    Time 2                   4.500            .540
No             No                Win                      Time 1                   2.933            .506
                                                                    Time 2                   3.867            .483
                                       Lose                     Time 1                   4.533            .506
                                                                    Time 2                   3.467            .483


    Subjects in the Religion x No Reward x Win (see Table 3) condition held the strongest stereotypical views the second time M=1.600 (1=strongly agree, for further elaboration see Appendix A).  According to the hypothesis subjects in the Religion x Reward x Win should have held the most stereotypical views.  However, subjects in the Religion x No Reward x Win condition indicated a higher degree of stereotypical views the first time they answered the questionnaire (M=3.133 as opposed to M=4.600 for the Religion x Reward x Win group) (see Table 3).
    Groups in the Religion x Reward x Lose condition and Religion x No Reward x Lose condition, exhibited almost the same level of stereotypical views.  The only difference was that for the former the mean regresses towards “neutral” whereas for the latter it moves toward “somewhat disagree”.  Nonetheless, their means the second time are almost the same (M=4.333 and M=4.500 respectively) (see Table 3).  These data do not confirm the hypothesis that religious groups will maintain stereotypical views towards the out-group.
    The No Religion x Reward x Lose group and the No Religion x No Reward x Win group show a similar pattern of lessening their stereotypical views (as opposed to strengthening which was the case for all the other groups) the second time they answered the questionnaire.  However, the difference is more emphasized in the later than in the former.

Table 4
Means of In-Group Glorification Views in the Win/Lose Condition



Win/Lose              Glorification                         Mean                   Std. Error
Win                             Time 1                             2.917                       .182
                                    Time 2                             2.067                       .236
Lose                            Time 1                             2.954                       .218
                                    Time 2                             3.446                       .282


The results failed to support the hypothesis that religious groups would score higher on identification with their in-group (p=0.803).  No other significant relationships and/or interactions were found (in all the combinations p>.27).  Also the results indicated that the hypothesis that in-group glorification would be higher among religious groups was not supported.  However, an interaction was found between Win/Lose condition and in-group glorification (F(1)=9.751, p=.004) (see Table 4).  The means for both groups are almost identical the first time.  However, for the “win” condition, in-group glorification views are strengthened the second time where M=2.067 indicates that group members “agree” on their group’s superiority.  When groups were told that they lost, their views are almost in the mid point between “somewhat agree” and “neutral”.

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                                                                        Discussion

    The results of the present study indicate that religion and reward play a role in group processes; hence, supporting to some degree the hypothesis of the study.  However, their influence on groups’ perceptions of each other does not seem to be that clear cut.  It was hypothesized that being assigned to a religious group would promote stronger ties between group members only by the virtue of being assigned to a category (Turner, Brown, & Tajfel, 1979).  As a result, it was reasoned that because of stronger ties, members of religious group would maintain more stereotypes, favor more the in-group, be more cohesive, and identify more with same group members than members of non-religious groups.  Initially, the Win/Lose conditions were introduced to counterbalance each other.  Thus, no prediction was made to accommodate them.
    The results indicated that there was an interaction between in-group glorification and Win/Lose condition.  This shows that group’s self-awareness is based on the facts available to its members.  In other words, for a group to praise itself, some sort of advantageous condition is needed.  This finding, even though simplistic in nature, has repercussions in conflict settings, because groups can use this glorified self-perception as the foundation for out-group derogation.  Moreover, the glorified self-perception might be related to the belief in group’s superiority thus leading to conflict (Eidelson & Eidelson, 2003).  Since in-group bias and favoritism are omnipresent in group processes (Turner et al., 1979; Doosje & Branscombe, 2003), then it might be helpful in pre-conflict or conflict situations to make the parties aware of these phenomena; thus, aiming at fostering inter-group understanding.  However, this should be the scope of future research.
    Identification with the in-group was not significantly influenced by the independent variables; hence, not lending support to the hypothesis that religion would provide with salient elements that group members could use to identify with the in-group.  Nevertheless, this might have been due to the fact that the religion was fictitious and assigned.  Other studies should address this by having groups composed of same religion participants compete against other unidentified religious groups (to avoid any possible ethical dilemma that might arise as the result of having participants exposed to situations where their stereotypes are uncovered).
    Another explanation as to why identification with in-group was not significantly influenced by the independent variables could reside in the fact that the short nature of the encounter between group members might not have provided participants with enough opportunity to think of each other as belonging to the same group.  The sessions lasted in general from 20-25 minutes, during which time the participants did not have many exchanges among them.  Therefore, the failure to find support for the hypothesis might have been a procedural defect.  Future studies should include steps to overcome such a problem by expanding interaction and interaction time between group members.  One way of achieving this would be by having group members engage in a short conversation before the experiment.
    The study sessions were video taped and the participants’ behavior and verbal comments were analyzed; however, the amount of data collected was very limited.  For some groups, the amount of verbal exchange among group members was limited to planning on how to solve the puzzle.  This again is an indication of how the short period of time in the laboratory did not allow enough time for the participants to feel comfortable.  Moreover, the fact that they were being video taped might have been another reason why not many comments on the out-group were made, since perhaps participants might have felt intimidated to voice their opinions in general and their stereotypes in particular.  Future research could control for this deficiency by either allowing more time so that the participants are desensitized by the presence of the camera or by using raters unknowingly to the participants.
    The interaction between Cohesion x Reward x Religion are indicative of a trend in increased cohesiveness among members of religious groups.  Group cohesion seems to be the strongest in the Religious x No reward condition.  It is not clear how the absence of reward would make groups more cohesive, however for this particular group it might have been the case that the presence of religion was strong enough to yield to a cohesive group.  Nevertheless, the fact that cohesion is stronger among members of religious groups demonstrates, as it was hypothesized, that religion might play a role in bringing members of a group or a community together, as in the case of Bosnia-Hercegovina where ethnic Bosnians started to think of themselves and other members of their ethnic group as “Muslims” during the conflict in Yugoslavia (Herzfeld, 2003).
    Even though religion can be a catalyst for group cohesion, in time other factors might come to influence the bond between group members.  In the present study, cohesion levels for Religion x Reward and No Religion x Reward groups were almost the same the second time the groups answered the questionnaire.  For the No Religion x Reward groups, the increase in cohesion from the first to the second time the groups answered the questionnaire, might speak to a trend of a possible influence that reward might have on cohesion when groups strive towards a common goal (in this case to gain access to two course credits) (Sherif, 1958).   In sum, the results might indicate that even though religion does play a role in group cohesiveness, so does reward – it only takes longer.
    This finding seems to be in line with the rationale that religion, which is highly salient in people’s minds, provides with “instant incentives” for creating the “us” versus “them” categories.  This finding, however, also indicates a trend which shows a side of group processes that mature in time and yield the same end results (i.e. inter-group tension).  In practice this could mean that the possibility of conflict might be greater between religious groups however, it also warns us that when it comes to conflict studies, nothing can be certain and/or predictable -- other factors could be influencing group processes.
    One has to be cautious when considering these results, not only because of the limitations mentioned earlier but also because of the limitations inherited in laboratory settings.  People’s reactions in the laboratory might be very different from those they have in everyday life.  Moreover, other influences, such as those from media, political, and/or religious leaders, do not have access in the laboratory; hence, the results obtained in this manner might not speak the entire truth.
    The fact that the most stereotypical views were found in the Religion x Win condition shows that in certain circumstances these groups might be more prone to conflict than other groups.  Stereotypical views for the out-group were found to be influenced by the interaction of Reward x Religion x Win/Lose condition, indicating that the creation of stereotypes for the out-group comes as the result of inherited qualities of the group (such as religion) and other situational factors (such as reward).
    Members of the No Reward x Religion x Win condition expressed more stereotypical views for the out-group.  Again, being member of a religious group and winning makes group members view the out-group as inferior; therefore, the dehumanization of the out-group and the propensity to aggress might increase (Eidelson & Eidelson, 2003).  However, this result should be taken with some reserve, because the strikingly strong score attained the second time the group answered the questionnaire might have been, more than anything, a reflection of group members’ characteristics given that their initial score also indicated the existence of stereotypical views.  Another possible explanation is related to the fact that given the small number of participants in the group, an extreme score could have overshadowed and out-balanced other milder scores.
    Of importance were the findings that stereotypical views were the lowest in the Religion x Lose condition.  This result is startling at first, because it is not in accordance with the hypothesis, which predicted that religious groups would maintain the highest levels of stereotypical views.  Even though all the explanations offered in earlier cases as reasons why some results might not confirm to the hypothesis, apply here, the result obtained in this case might have another explanation.
    Religion, as it was mentioned, provides people with moral teachings (Quilliam, 2000).  It could have been possible that being placed in a religious group, would have reminded the participants of their own religion and the values of tolerance that they hold, hence leading to less stereotypical views (Reed & Aquino, 2003).  For these individuals, as Reed and Aquino (2003) observe, moral identity (self-regulating construct that connects personal to social identity), might have high self-importance, thus they could have redefined the boundaries of their in-group.  Future research should control for the participants’ level of moral identity, in order to gain a better grasp of the underlying influence that religion might have on inter-group relations.
    Regardless of its limitations the study furthers the understanding of conflict and how it relates to religion and resource scarcity.  The findings warn of the possible impact that religion and resource scarcity might have on increasing inter-group tensions.  They suggest one more time the need to look even further and in more detail into this issue of a highly complicated character.

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                                                                            References

Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M. (2002).  Social Psychology (4th edition).  Upper Saddle River, NJ:
    Prentice Hall.

Coleman, P. T.  (2003). Characteristics of protracted, intractable conflict: Toward the
    development of a metaframework-I. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 9, 1-37.

Doosje, B., & Branscombe, N. R. (2003).  Attribution for the negative historical actions of a group.  European
    Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 235-248.

Eidelson, R. J. & Eidelson, J. I. (2003).  Dangerous ideas: Five beliefs that propel groups toward conflict.
    American Psychologist, 58, 182-192.

Herzfeld, N. (2003).  Open wounds. Christian Century, 120, 8-11.

Hogg, M. A., & Hains, S. C. (1996).  Intergroup relations and group solidarity: Effects of
    group identification and social beliefs on depersonalized attraction.  Journal of Personality and
    Social Psychology, 70, 295-309.

Hogg, M A. & Turner, J. C. (1987).  Intergroup behaviour, self-stereotyping and the
    salience of social categories. British Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 325-340.

Hogg, M. A., & Williams, K. D.  (2000).  From I to We: Social identity and the collective
    self.  Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 4, 81-97.

Kunovich, R. M. & Hodson, R. (1999).  Conflict, religious identity, and ethnic
    intolerance in Croatia. Social Forces, 78, 643-669.

Liyakatali, T. (2004).  From conversion to conversation: Interfaith Dialogue in Post 9-11
    America.  Muslim World, 94 (3), 343-355.

Pruitt, D. G., & Kim, S. H. (2003). Social conflict: Escalation, stalemate, and settlement.
    McGraw-Hill Higher Education: New York, NY.

Reed, A. II. & Aquino, K. F. (2003).  Moral identity and the expanding moral regard
    toward the out-groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1270-
    -1286.

Schwartz, S. & Spike, H. (1995).  Value priorities and religiosity in four western
    religions.  Social Psychology Quarterly, 58, 88-107.

Sells, M. (2003). Crosses of blood: Sacred space, religion, and violence in Bosnia-
    Hercegovina. Sociology of Religion, 64, 309-331.

Sherif, M. (1958).  Superordinate goals in the reduction of intergroup conflict.  The
    American Journal of Sociology, 63, 349- 356.

Tajfel, H. (1969).  Cognitive aspects of prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 25, 79-97.

Turner, J.C., Brown, R. J., & Tajfel, H. (1979).  Social comparison and group interest in
    ingroup favouritism. European Journal of Social Psychology, 9, 187-204.

Quilliam, N. (2000).  Religion and culture. International Conference on Global Ethos,
    panel 7: Religion,Gender, and Culture.  Retrieved October, 2004 from
    http://vulab.ias.unu.edu/GlobalEthos/papers/quilliam.html

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                                                        Appendix A
                                                               Questionnaire 1

On a scale from 1 to 7 where 1=strongly agree, 2=agree, 3=somewhat agree, 4=neutral, 5=somewhat disagree, 6=disagree, 7=strongly disagree, please indicate your level of approval with each statement by circling the appropriate number.

1. I think that members of my group and I share same viewpoint on the other group.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
2. Members of my group and I have similar goals.
           1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
3. Members of my group and I work together to benefit our group.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
4. I share many values with my group member.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
5. I consider myself to be similar to members of my own group.
           1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
6. I identify with other members in my group.
            1                   2              3             4              5             6              7
      strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
7. My group is more capable than the other group.
           1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
8. Overall, my group is better at performing tasks than the other group.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
9.          My group is composed of intelligent people.
             1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
10. The other group is not as good as my group.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
11. Members of the other group are not as smart as members of my group.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
12.       Members of the other group are clumsy.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree

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                                                                        Appendix B

                                                                    Questionnaire 2

On a scale from 1 to 7 where 1=strongly agree, 2=agree, 3=somewhat agree, 4=neutral, 5=somewhat disagree, 6=disagree, 7=strongly disagree, please indicate your level of approval with each statement by circling the appropriate number.

1. My opinion toward the other group and my group members’ opinions are similar.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
2. My group and I strive to reach the same ends.
             1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
3. Members of my group collaborate to attain their objectives.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
4. My group and I maintain similar values.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
5. There are commonalities between members of my group and myself.
             1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
6. I see myself as having many characteristics in common with the members of my own group.
                         1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
7. Members of my group are more gifted than members of the other group.
             1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree

8. I think my group can outperform the other group.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
9. All my group members are smart.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
10. Members of my group are better than members of the other group.
           1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
11. The other group is not as intelligent as my group.
             1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree
12. Members of the other group are less efficient.
            1               2              3             4              5             6              7
     strongly agree                                                                                       strongly disagree

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                                                                Appendix C

                                                        Debriefing Statement

    In our time we have witnessed and are still witnessing numerous conflicts which are colored by religious connotations.  September 11th is the one that American people think of the most, because of its recency but most importantly because it happened on American soil.  Others include the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that in Northern Ireland, and the one between Israel and Palestine, just to name a few.  Because of the destructiveness and pain that conflict causes people all around the world, especially conflict between different religious groups, the researcher was interested in finding out the extent to which religious identity influences social conflict. Studies have indicated that religion is an important of people’s identity (Sells, 2003; Rotar, 2002).
    In this study, some of you were randomly assigned to a fictitious religious group and were given a written description of a “religion” (a made up religion that included a myth of creation and a description of some cardinal values such as “life is sacred” in order to mimic the structure of the dominant Western religions) to which you and members of your group belonged -- this was the experimental condition.  Subjects in the control condition were instead given to read a newspaper article on some local activity.
    The other manipulated variable was level of reward.  Hence, some of you were told that whether you received one or three credits depended on whether your timing in solving the puzzle was better or worse than the other group’s – this was the reward condition.  Subjects in the equal-reward condition were told that they would receive three credits for participating in the study.
    To create a laboratory situation as close as possible to a real life situation, the true purpose of the study was not revealed until now.  The deception involved was not only unavoidable in trying to answer the preliminary question regarding religion and social conflict but also necessary in controlling for confounding variables (such as “the good participant effect”) which would yield unreliable findings.  Hence, in an effort to maintain the scientific integrity of this study, your most kind collaboration is asked by keeping the procedures and the purpose of it a secret until the end of October, by which time all the data will have been collected.
    In addition, I would like to assure you that the answers that you provided in no way reflect on you as a person, since your response is but one among the myriad of possible reactions to the situation.  Moreover, your answers will be kept in aggregate (group) form only, hence your anonymity is assured.
If you have any questions regarding the study or the method and procedures used please feel free to contact me at P.O. Box 0407.

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                                                                          Appendix D

                                                                    Study Descriptions

                                                                  Religion + No Reward
The study that you are about to participate focuses on group processes during problem solving activities.  You and the other participants in the room are assigned to the same religion. You and members of your religious group will be given to solve a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and your time will be recorded and then compared to that of another religious group similar to yours.  However, before you begin solving the puzzle you will read the religion’s description.  Then you will be asked to answer a questionnaire.  After the questionnaire will be completed, you should solve the puzzle in group.  When the puzzle is put together, the experimenter will compare your time with that of the other religious group, and the result will be announced.   Please be advised that regardless of your time you will receive two credits.  After the results are announced you will be administered another questionnaire.   Upon completion please stay in your place and wait for the experimenter’s directions.

                                                                No religion + Reward
The study that you are about to participate focuses on group processes during problem solving activities.  You and the other participants in the room are assigned to the same group.  You and members of your group will be given to solve a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and your time will be recorded and then compared to that of another group similar to yours.  However, before you begin solving the puzzle you will read a story.  Then you will be asked to answer a questionnaire.  After the questionnaire will be completed, you should solve the puzzle in group.  When the puzzle is put together, the experimenter will compare your time with that of the other group, and the result will be announced.  Please be advised that depending on your timing you will receive either two credits (if your timing is better than the other group’s) or one credit (if your timing is worse than that of the other group).  After the results are announced you will be administered another questionnaire.  Upon completion please stay in your place and wait for the experimenter’s directions.
                                                                 Religion + Reward
The study that you are about to participate focuses on group processes during problem solving activities.  You and the other participants in the room are assigned to the same religion.  You and members of your religious group will be given to solve a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and your time will be recorded and then compared to that of another religious group similar to yours.  However, before you begin solving the puzzle you will read the religion’s description.  Then you will be asked to answer a questionnaire.  After the questionnaire will be completed, you should solve the puzzle in group.  When the puzzle is put together, the experimenter will compare your time with that of the other religious group’s, and the result will be announced.  Please be advised that depending on your timing you will receive either two credits (if your timing is better than the other religious group’s) or one credit (if your timing is worse than that of the other religious group’s).  After the results are announced you will be administered another questionnaire.  Upon completion please stay in your place and wait for the experimenter’s directions.

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                                                                          Appendix E

                                                                Informed Consent Form

INFORMED CONSENT AND RIGHTS OF RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY AT SAINT ANSELM COLLEGE

All psychological research at Saint Anselm College is conducted according to strict ethical principals outlined by the American Psychological Association and is in full compliance with Federal law. The Department of Health and Human Services, for example, specifies that informed consent must be given prior to research studies, that is, "...the knowing consent of an individual or his legally authorized representative so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice without undue inducement or any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, or other form of constraint or coercion.’
Simply put, this means when you participate in any research study, you will be given a clear explanation of the procedures involved. You may ask for clarification either before or during the procedure, and you may terminate the procedures at any time.
Some of the procedures used in a particular research study may include the use of media devices such as video and/or audio recording. Any use of these devices will be fully disclosed at the conclusion of your participation. You will be given the opportunity to revoke the use of this recording at the conclusion of your participation if you so choose. It should be understood that any recordings made will be used for research purposes
After having carefully read and considered the foregoing, I consent to participate in research activities according to the terms heretofore enumerated. My signature indicates that I understand the instructions of this study as they have been read to or read by me.

Date _________________ Signature__________________________

Class/Student I.D. # ________________ Other_____________

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                                                          Appendix F

                                         Post-Experimental Questionnaire

Please answer to the following questions and circle the answer when necessary:
 
 

1)  What did you think that the study was about?
 

2)  Did the story have to do with anything other than what the experimenter told you it had to do?

Please circle:            YES                                  NO

If YES what?
 

3)  Did this affect your behavior in any way?

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Relevant Links:

United States Institute of Peace
 

Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict
 

Center for Reduction of Religious-Based Conflict
 

The Online Journal of Peace and Conflict Resolution
 

The Conflict Resolution Information Source
 

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