Costly signaling increases trust, even across religious affiliations

Deborah Hall, Adam Cohen, Kaitlin K. Meyer, Allison H. Varley, Gene Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Trust is a critical aspect of social interaction. One might predict that individuals trust religious out-groups less than religious in-groups, and that costly signals performed by members of religious in-groups increase trust while costly signals performed by members of religious out-groups decrease trust. We examined how Christian participants perceived the trustworthiness of Muslim and Christian individuals who did or did not engage in religious costly signaling. Religious costly signaling, operationalized as giving to religious charities (Experiments 1 and 2) or adhering to religious dietary restrictions (Experiment 3), increased self-reported trust, regardless of target religious affiliation. Furthermore, when estimating the likelihood that trustworthy versus untrustworthy targets engaged in costly signaling, participants made systematic judgments that showed that costly signaling is associated with trust for both Muslim and Christian targets (Experiment 4). These results are novel in their suggestion that costly signals of religious commitment can increase trust both within and, crucially, across religious-group lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1368-1376
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2015


  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Open data
  • Open materials
  • Religious beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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