Religious residue: Cross-cultural evidence that religious psychology and behavior persist following deidentification.

Daryl R. Van Tongeren, C. Nathan DeWall, Zhansheng Chen, Chris G. Sibley, Joseph Bulbulia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


More than 1 billion people worldwide report no religious affiliation. These religious “nones” represent the world's third largest religion-related identity group and are a diverse group, with some having previous religious identification and others never identifying as religious. We examined how 3 forms of religious identification—current, former, and never—influence a range of cognitions, emotions, and behavior. Three studies using nationally representative samples of religious Western (United States), secular Western (Netherlands, New Zealand) and Eastern (Hong Kong) cultures showed evidence of a religious residue effect: Formerly religious individuals (i.e., religious “dones”) differed from never religious and currently religious individuals in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes. Study 1 (n = 3,071) offered initial cross-cultural evidence, which was extended in a preregistered replication study that also included measures of charitable contribution (Study 2; n = 1,626). Study 3 (N = 31,604) found that individuals who deidentified were still relatively likely to engage in prosocial behavior (e.g., volunteering) after leaving religion. This research has broad implications for understanding changing global trends in religious identification and their consequences for psychology and behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-503
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • cross-cultural
  • formerly religious
  • nonreligious
  • religion
  • religious residue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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