The influence of divine rewards and punishments on religious prosociality

James Saleam*, Ahmed A. Moustafa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


A common finding across many cultures has been that religious people behave more prosocially than less (or non-) religious people. Numerous priming studies have demonstrated that the activation of religious concepts via implicit and explicit cues (e.g., 'God,' 'salvation,' among many others) increases prosociality in religious people. However, the factors underlying such findings are less clear. In this review we discuss hypotheses (e.g., the supernatural punishment hypothesis) that explain the religion-prosociality link, and also how recent findings in the empirical literature converge to suggest that the divine rewards (e.g., heaven) and punishments (e.g., hell) promised by various religious traditions may play a significant role. In addition, we further discuss inconsistencies in the religion-prosociality literature, as well as existing and future psychological studies which could improve our understanding of whether, and how, concepts of divine rewards and punishments may influence prosociality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number01149
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


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