Do Empathetic People Have Strong Religious Beliefs? Survey Studies with Large Japanese Samples

Tatsunori Ishii*, Katsumi Watanabe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The exploration of personality factors to explain individual differences in religiosity has demonstrated a link between empathic concern and religious beliefs using the Empathic Concern subscale of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI-EC). Research in the cognitive science of religion emphasized the role of empathizing ability related to mentalizing in acquisition of religious belief and has demonstrated the relationship between the Empathy Quotient (EQ) and religious belief. The current study was designed to compare the strength of relationships between religious belief and two representative measures of empathy (the IRI-EC and the EQ). Study 1 aimed to statistically evaluate the strength of the relationship between the EQ/IRI-EC and religious belief with four Japanese samples (Ns = 207, 155, 208, 183). The mini meta-analysis results with random effect model indicated that the effect size (semi partial correlation, r sp) of the IRI-EC (r sp = .120, 95%CI [.0002,.237]) was larger than that of the EQ (r sp = .074, 95%CI [−.0001,.147]). Moreover, these results were confirmed by Study 2 (N = 1440). Thus, the present study provided reliable evidence of the link between empathy and religious belief in non-Western samples. We discuss how empathic concern and mentalizing-related empathy contribute to acquiring religious beliefs. Abbreviations: EQ: Empathy Quotient; IRI-EC: Interpersonal Reactivity Index-Empathic Concern; WEIRD: Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalThe International Journal for the Psychology of Religion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Psychology(all)


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