What is it about?

The present studies investigated what stereotype content is shared between agnostics and atheists, and what stereotype content is unique to each group. In Study 1, participants reported stereotypes that they believed society held about agnostics, atheists, and Christians. Common stereotypic traits for agnostics were indecisive, questioning, and confused, but for atheists were immoral, intolerant, and evil. In Study 2, participants rated how representative 10 key traits identified in Study 1 were of agnostics, atheists, and Protestants. Multilevel modeling revealed that agnostics were perceived to be more indecisive, loyal, moral, patriotic, safe, tolerant, and trustworthy than atheists.

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Why is it important?

Researchers examining biases toward the nonreligious often group atheists and agnostics together. Although agnostics are just as common as atheists, there is less empirical work on stereotypes about agnostics than on stereotypes about atheists. Therefore, it is important to assess whether stereotypes applied to atheists or the nonreligious in general are commonly applied to other nonreligious groups, such as agnostics.

Perspectives

I hope this work helps to fill the existing literature gap in what we know about stereotypes about agnostics. Our findings suggest that laypeople’s mental models of nonreligious individuals are not homogenous.

Veronica Bergstrom
University of Toronto

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This page is a summary of: To believe or not to believe: Stereotypes about agnostics., Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, February 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/rel0000419.
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