Degree Year

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Sara Verosky

Committee Member(s)

Patricia deWinstanley
Cynthia McPherson Frantz

Keywords

Atheists, Trustworthy, Mental images, Reverse correlation, Prejudice

Abstract

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.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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