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Social support networks and religiosity in rural South India

Power, Eleanor Alice ORCID: 0000-0002-3064-2050 (2017) Social support networks and religiosity in rural South India. Nature Human Behaviour, 1 (3). ISSN 2397-3374

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Identification Number: 10.1038/s41562-017-0057


In recent years, scientists based in a variety of disciplines have attempted to explain the evolutionary origins of religious belief and practice1–3. Although they have focused on different aspects of the religious system, they consistently highlight the strong association between religiosity and prosocial behaviour (acts that benefit others). This association has been central to the argument that religious prosociality played an important role in the sociocultural florescence of our species4–7. But empirical work evaluating the link between religion and prosociality has been somewhat mixed8–11. Here, I use detailed, ethnographically informed data chronicling the religious practice and social support networks of the residents of two villages in South India to evaluate whether those who evince greater religiosity are more likely to undertake acts that benefit others. Exponential random graph models reveal that individuals who worship regularly and carry out greater and costlier public religious acts are more likely to provide others with support of all types. Those individuals are themselves better able to call on support, having a greater likelihood of reciprocal relationships. These results suggest that religious practice is taken as a signal of trustworthiness, generosity and prosociality, leading village residents to establish supportive, often reciprocal relationships with such individuals.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: ©2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 14:42
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2024 18:57

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