The role of religion for a compassionate world

In 2022, we started a new 3-year grant funded project on the science of empathy, compassion, and religion (funded by Templeton Religion Trust; see their feature on Measuring Compassion). Read on for more about our objectives here, and stay tuned for publications.  You can also read more about our work on the negative intergroup consequences of religion here.

Compassion, the ability to comprehend, share, and be concerned about another person’s emotions, is often regarded as a virtue that promotes altruistic behavior and fosters a peaceful society. Nevertheless, experiencing compassion is not a straightforward process. This research project aims to enhance our comprehension of the factors that encourage compassion. We contend that religion provides the teachings and experiences necessary for individuals to overcome typical impediments to compassion.

The first objective of this project is to investigate the correlations between specific religious practices and the most current metrics of compassion, including behavioral measures. We will replicate and expand upon the existing limited evidence and conduct a preliminary examination of the causal influence of engaging in religious practices on compassion.

The second objective is to elucidate why religiosity is associated with a greater capacity for compassion by evaluating whether religion 1) fosters normative, affective, and social incentives for compassion, and 2) influences perceptions of the emotional and cognitive expenses associated with compassion. We propose a series of nine empirical studies, supported by direct and conceptual replication endeavors. We will generate scientific publications and conference presentations to establish a robust scientific foundation with practical implications for religious communities.


Łowicki, P., Zajenkowski, M., & Van Cappellen, P. (2020). It’s the heart that matters: The relationships among cognitive mentalizing ability, emotional empathy, and religiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 161.

Media Coverage:

Featured Story by Templeton Religion Trust: Measuring Compassion: Respond or not?