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Does It Pay To Pray? Costly Ritual and Cooperation


  • Ruffle Bradley J.

    () (Ben-Gurion University)

  • Sosis Richard

    () (Hebrew University of Jerusalem and University of Connecticut)


Time-consuming and costly religious rituals pose a puzzle for economists committed to rational choice theories of human behavior. We propose that either through selection or a causal relationship, the performance of religious rituals is associated with higher levels of cooperation. To test this hypothesis we design field experiments to measure the in-group cooperative behavior of members of religious and secular Israeli kibbutzim, communal societies for which mutual cooperation is a matter of survival. Our results show that religious males (the primary practitioners of collective religious ritual in Orthodox Judaism) are more cooperative than religious females, secular males and secular females. Moreover, the frequency with which religious males engage in collective religious rituals predicts well their degree of cooperative behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Ruffle Bradley J. & Sosis Richard, 2007. "Does It Pay To Pray? Costly Ritual and Cooperation," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-37, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:7:y:2007:i:1:n:18

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ruffle, Bradley J. & Sosis, Richard, 2006. "Cooperation and the in-group-out-group bias: A field test on Israeli kibbutz members and city residents," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 147-163, June.
    2. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Mahmud, Minhaj & Martinsson, Peter, 2005. "Trust and Religion: Experimental Evidence from Bangladesh," Working Papers in Economics 167, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    3. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    4. Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-291, April.
    5. Bradley Ruffle & Richard Sosis, 2003. "Religious ritual and cooperation: Testing for a relationship on israeli religious and secular kibbutzim," Artefactual Field Experiments 00103, The Field Experiments Website.
    6. Jean Ensminger, 1997. "Transaction Costs and Islam: Explaining Conversion in Africa," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 153(1), pages 1-4, March.
    7. Eli Berman, 2000. "Sect, Subsidy, and Sacrifice: An Economist's View of Ultra-Orthodox Jews," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 905-953.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Hoffmann, 2013. "The Experimental Economics Of Religion," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(5), pages 813-845, December.
    2. Tan, Jonathan H.W. & Vogel, Claudia, 2008. "Religion and trust: An experimental study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 832-848, December.
    3. Daniel J. Benjamin & James J. Choi & Geoffrey Fisher, 2016. "Religious Identity and Economic Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(4), pages 617-637, October.
    4. Matteo M. Galizzi & Daniel Navarro Martinez, 2015. "On the external validity of social-preference games: A systematic lab-field study," Economics Working Papers 1462, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    5. Anderson, Lisa R. & Mellor, Jennifer M., 2009. "Religion and cooperation in a public goods experiment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 58-60, October.
    6. Tolciu, Andreia, 2009. "What a difference peers can make: The impact of social (work) norms on unemployment duration," HWWI Research Papers 1-24, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
    7. repec:jdm:journl:v:12:y:2017:i:3:p:280-296 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Galizzi, Matteo M. & Navarro-Martínez, Daniel, 2018. "On the external validity of social preference games: a systematic lab-field study," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 84088, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Akay, Alpaslan & Karabulut, Gökhan & Martinsson, Peter, 2015. "Cooperation and punishment: The effect of religiosity and religious festival," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 43-46.
    10. Delavande, Adeline & Zafar, Basit, 2015. "Stereotypes and Madrassas: Experimental evidence from Pakistan," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 247-267.
    11. Michaeli, Moti, 2015. "Group Formation, In-group Bias and the Cost of Cheating," Economics Working Papers MWP2015/04, European University Institute.
    12. Anja Koebrich Leon & Christian Pfeifer, 2013. "An Empirical Note on Religiosity and Social Trust using German Survey Data," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 33(1), pages 753-763.
    13. Adeline Delavande & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Stereotypes and Madrassas Experimental Evidence from Pakistan," Working Papers WR-859, RAND Corporation.
    14. H'MADOUN, Maryam, 2011. "Afraid of God or afraid of man: How religion shapes attitudes toward free riding and fraud," Working Papers 2011008, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
    15. Chen, Kang & Tang, Fang-Fang, 2009. "Cultural differences between Tibetans and ethnic Han Chinese in ultimatum bargaining experiments," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 78-84, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • P32 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Collectives; Communes; Agricultural Institutions
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion


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