Exposure to religious concepts on attitudes of Jews toward Muslims in Israel

Three studies examined the influence of exposure to religious concepts on attitudes of Jews toward Muslims in Israel. Religious concepts were exposed by using either supraliminal or subliminal priming, hence tapping different levels of awareness. Comparable supraliminal and subliminal priming techniques were further employed to investigate the effects of participants’ own religious content (“Jewish”) and content representing the “other” religion (“Islamic”) on attitudes of Jewish participants toward members of the Muslim group. Findings indicated that exposure to religious concepts at a conscious level increased threat perceptions and negative attitudes, while lack of awareness of religious concepts had positive outcomes. Additionally, realistic and symbolic threats played a mediating role in understanding the impact of Jewish concepts on perceived social distance only under conditions of awareness of religious concepts. Our results convey the importance of investigating why religious diversity in society may not always have a positive impact on intergroup relations. Religious content affects attitudes toward the out-group as a function of the level of awareness of the content presented. Though more studies are needed, we expand the knowledge about the noteworthy role of awareness of religious content in group relations. At the same time, interventions designed to prevent negative intergroup attitudes and improve intergroup relations may benefit from this research. In fact, negative intergroup attitudes may be reduced using a multifaceted approach, which should consider the influences of mere presence of religious symbols in the surroundings. Thus, it is valuable to continue to strive for understanding the mechanisms and contents that lead to negative or positive out-group attitudes and the conditions under which religious content is activated.

Research: Lipaz Shamoa-Nir & Irene Razpurker-Apfeld