Does Atheism Affect Business Success?

09 Apr


Again, me reading another article over at Slate prompted this question in my head: Women May Avoid Business Careers to Maintain Ethical Integrity. It was especially this paragraph that primed me to think of religion:

Jessica Kennedy of Wharton and Laura Kray of Berkeley report on three studies in a paper forthcoming in Social Psychology and Personality Science. In the first study, subjects read 14 vignettes describing ethical compromises in a business context. Values seen as sacred [my emphasis], such as honesty, loyalty, or the well-being of others, were traded off for the secular values of money or status. An executive secures a big bonus by using a cheap ingredient in a cancer drug, knowing it will kill some people. A project manager takes credit for the work of a subordinate who stayed late at the office. Subjects rated how objectionable the behavior was, and how much business sense it made. Compared with men, women found the acts more offensive, and said they made less business sense.

I thought “Why are money and status considered ‘secular’?” But then if honesty, loyalty, and well-being of others were considered “sacred” (or the counterpoint to “secular”, which would be “religious”) then that would imply that women are more religious than men. That seems to actually be the case. And then another point in favor of people lacking empathy also being successful, CEOs have a higher population of psychopaths than other professions.

Could it just be that men are in general are more likely to be psychopaths, thus lack empathy, thus lack hyperactive agency detection or otherwise anthropomorphize (thus empathize with) inanimate objects when lonely or feeling out of control? Or since intuition and morality are connected, and intuition and god-belief are connected, that this might means that men use intuitive judgements less than women (the more meta question being whether this is innate to women or simply a self-perpetuating cultural stereotype; I lean towards the latter)? A contrary data point, however, is the fact that professors in schools of business are usually religious.

Or maybe the answer is more biological. Men have 10 – 15 times more testosterone than women, making (or correlating with?) them more likely to seek social dominance. Maybe the women who did cross ethical norms in the study cited at Slate had higher T than other women.

Who knows. Someone would have to do an actual in depth study to connect all of these dots.

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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in cognitive science, economics/sociology, religiosity


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