Bachelor of Arts
Cynthia McPherson Frantz
Atheists, Trustworthy, Mental images, Reverse correlation, Prejudice
Previous research has found that atheists experience anti-atheist prejudice, which appears to be marked by a lack of trust. However, it is not known whether this prejudice manifests itself in terms of mental images of atheists, especially since atheists lack visual characteristics, they form a non-cohesive group, and their practices are not easily defined. Using a reverse correlation task (RC task), participants viewed pairs of faces that differed in noise superimposed on a base face. Participants chose which face looked more like an atheist. Each participant’s chosen and non-chosen faces were averaged to create a composite “atheist” and “non-atheist” image, respectively. Independent raters rated the images on trustworthiness. In two separate studies, participants’ mental images of atheists were rated as less trustworthy-looking than their mental images of non-atheists. When the task was reversed and participants were asked to choose the face that looked more like someone who believes in God and/or other deities, we found similar results, participants’ mental images of non-religious individuals were rated as less trustworthy- looking than their mental images of religious individuals. Together, these results suggest that atheists may be visualized as untrustworthy. Furthermore, mental images of a group may be formed even when the group lacks salient visual characteristics.
Bertrand, Maria C., "Atheists are Visualized as Untrustworthy" (2017). Honors Papers. 213.