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“For Tomorrow We Die”? Testing the Accuracy of Stereotypes about Atheists and Agnostics

Edward Dutton and Curtis Dunkel

Published: 2019/09/01


Research is increasingly finding that stereotypes about the average intelligence or personality of different groups, when actually tested, have a substantial degree of empirical accuracy. This has been explored with regard to more incendiary stereotypes — such as about races and nationalities — but in no great detail with regard to different religious groups. In this study, we draw upon the Midlife in the United States study (MIDUS) to discern the most important values held by atheists and agnostics. We compare these to stereotypes about atheists and agnostics in terms of personality or interests. We find that the stereotypes are accurate to a strong degree. Item ambiguity and other problems with the instrument may have impacted the results, leading to suggestions on how to overcome these problems in future research.

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