Does religion make people nicer?
Take any mainstream charity and you'll find that a significant number of people on the supporter base regularly attend a place of worship.
But does that mean religious people are nicer than everyone else?
After reading Deepak Malhorta's study on religious salience, it seems the answer might be sometimes – particularly if that time happens to be a Sunday.
Professor Malhorta undertook a study that looked at the factors that might encourage participants in an online charitable auction to continue bidding.
The experiment was based on sending two different kinds of emails to the participants. The 'charitable' email included the following message…
"We hope you will continue to support this charity by keeping the bidding alive. Every extra dollar you bid in the auction helps us accomplish our very special mission."
A second email, encouraged people to bid again with a 'competitive' message…
"The competition is heating up! If you hope to win, you will have to bid again. Are you up for the challenge?"
The results showed that religious people were more likely than non-religious people to respond to an appeal 'for charity' but only on the day that they attended their place of worship. On other days of the week there was no discernible difference between the two groups.
The 'competitive' email was more effective on religious bidders than non-religious bidders, but there was no 'Sunday effect'.
So, in short, it seems attending a religious service primes people to respond to a request for help from a charity. That might help explain why our ads in the Sunday press normally tend to work better than those run during the week.
You can download Professor Malhotra's paper here (PDF).