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A belief in human evolution was associated with higher levels of prejudice, racist attitudes and support of discrimination against Blacks, immigrants and the LGBTQ community in the U.S., according to University of Massachusetts Amherst research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In 19 Eastern European countries, 25 Muslim countries and in Israel, low belief in evolution was linked to higher biases within a person's group and less support for conflict resolution.

The findings supported the hypothesis of the lead author. They collaborated with co-first authors Uri Lifshin at Reichman University in Israel and Jeff Greenberg and Dylan Horner at the University of Arizona.

People who think they are similar to animals are also people who tend to have more positive attitudes towards people from marginalized groups.

The researchers analyzed data from the American General Social Survey and three online samples. They accounted for education, political ideology, religiosity, cultural identity and scientific knowledge in testing their hypothesis about the associations of different levels of belief in evolution.

The same results were found each time, which was that belief in evolution relates to less prejudice, regardless of the group you are in, and controlling for all of these alternative explanations.

The researchers note that religious beliefs, like political ideology, were measured separately from a belief or disbelief in evolution.

All major political systems seem to have this effect and pattern. It is a human phenomenon, no matter where you are in the world.

The 19th century theory of evolution has been used to perpetrate racism, prejudice and homophobia.

It was exciting for us to show that the opposite is true and that belief in evolution seems to have positive effects, because there have been theoretical accounts that predict the opposite of what we found.

The years the GSS surveyed Americans about their beliefs in evolution, as well as measures of attitudes toward immigrants, Blacks, and affirmative action, were included in the U.S.-based study.

The paper states that the data analysis shows that the disbelief in human evolution is the driving factor and most consistent predictor of prejudice in comparison to other relevant constructs.

People with a higher belief in evolution were more likely to support peace. Belief in evolution was associated with less prejudice against Christians and Jews in the Islamic world. In Eastern Europe, where Orthodox Christians are the majority, a belief in evolution was linked with less prejudice towards gypsies, Jews and Muslims.

A belief in evolution may lead to a sense that we have more in common than different things.

The findings suggest that teaching evolution may have side effects that may make for a better society.

The next step is to investigate how evolution is taught in the classroom and develop models to study and strengthen the positive effects.

More information: Stylianos Syropoulos et al, Bigotry and the human–animal divide: (Dis)belief in human evolution and bigoted attitudes across different cultures., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2022). DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000391 Journal information: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Citation: Disbelief in human evolution linked to greater prejudice and racism (2022, April 4) retrieved 4 April 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-04-disbelief-human-evolution-linked-greater.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.