Van Tongeren, D. R., DeWall, C. N., & Van Cappellen, P. (in press). A sheep in wolf’s clothing?: Toward an understanding of religious dones. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001269
People often favor their ingroup and derogate members of the outgroup. However, less is known about “religious dones,” who used to identify as religious but no longer do and have more transitional identities.
Across six studies (N = 5,001; four preregistered), we examined the affiliative tendencies of religious dones and how they are perceived by other religious groups.
In Study 1, using a Cyberball paradigm, religious dones included atheist targets relative to Christian targets. In Studies 2 and 3, currently religious participants demonstrated an attenuated tendency to demonstrate the conjunction fallacy (i.e., associating people with heinous acts of violence) for religious dones compared to never religious targets. In Study 4, using a behavioral sacrifice paradigm (e.g., reducing compensation to reduce an uncomfortable noise blast to a partner), religious dones favored never religious partners (who did not reciprocate) and did not sacrifice as much for currently religious partners (who sacrificed for them as a member of their ingroup). In Studies 5 and 6, investigating belief and identity, revealed that religious dones hold favorable attitudes toward other dones (and former believers) and the never religious (and never believers), whereas other groups view dones “in the middle.” We also identified mediating mechanisms of trust, ingroup identification, and belief superiority.
Taken together, these six studies suggest that religious dones are viewed as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, in which they are treated favorably by currently religious individuals but often prefer never religious individuals, even though that warmth is not consistently reciprocated.