Religion and the morality of mentality / Adam B. Cohen.

Cohen, Adam B.
ix, 68 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- Psychology.
Psychology -- Penn dissertations.
Jewish and Protestant doctrine differ regarding the importance of certain kinds of mentality. Protestant doctrine considers belief an important element of religiosity, and consciously entertained thoughts about immoral actions immoral in and of themselves. Jewish doctrine teaches that belief is not important in religiosity, and that consciously entertained thoughts about immoral actions are not in and of themselves immoral. In this series of questionnaire-based studies, we investigated if such differences in religious dogma would affect the ways in which Jewish and Protestant participants would view what it means to be religious and whether a person's thoughts about doing something immoral affect the thinker's character. In study 1, we showed that for Protestants, religiosity is more a matter of belief than of practice, whereas the reverse was true for Jews. In study 2, we showed that only extent of religious practice, not religious belief or knowledge, make independent contributions to Jewish participants' self-rated religiosity (though practice, belief, and knowledge all correlated with religiosity). In studies 3 and 4, we presented Jewish and Protestant participants with scenarios about a person consciously entertaining thoughts about having an affair (study 3) or about poisoning a professor's dog after receiving a bad grade (study 4) and results on a variety of measures showed that Protestants were more morally condemning of the thoughts than Jews, especially in study 3. Interestingly, Jewish-Protestant differences in studies 3 and 4 were not due to differences on model of mind (e.g., the controllability of the thoughts or how likely they were to be acted upon) or due to differences in the moral significance of the behaviors being contemplated. Overall effects of religion on importance of mentality are discussed in a cultural context along with an alternative account of the findings, which is that the differences observed are due to differences in rules for membership in Judaism (which relies on descent) and Protestantism (which relies on assent to a particular belief structure). Broad implications of the findings are discussed.
Supervisor: Paul Rozin.
Thesis (Ph.D. in Psychology) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2000.
Includes bibliographical references.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 9989580.
Rozin, Paul, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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