Christian religious badges instill trust in Christian and non-Christian perceivers

Michael E. McCullough, Paul Swartwout, John H. Shaver, Evan C. Carter, Richard Sosis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


We conducted 4 experiments to examine how people incorporate visual information about strangers' religious identities-religious badges-into their decisions about how much to trust them. Experiment 1 revealed that Christian and non-Christian participants were more trusting (as measured by self-report) of targets who wore a religious badge associated with Christianity (Ash Wednesday ashes) than toward targets who did not wear such a badge. Experiment 2 replicated Experiment 1 and also revealed that the effects of Ash Wednesday ashes on Christians' and non-Christians' trust extended to a behavioral measure of trust (i.e., monetary allocations in a multiplayer trust game). Experiment 3 replicated Experiments 1 and 2 with a different religious badge (a necklace with the Christian cross on it). Experiment 4 ruled out a potential confound. Consistent with a stereotype interpretation, these results suggest that U.S. students regard visual cues to people's espousal of Christian religious beliefs as signals of their trustworthiness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-163
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Experimental economics
  • religion
  • religious badges
  • signaling

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