Psychologists Daniel C. Wisneski, Brad L. Lytle and Linda J. Skitka, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, focussed their study on the interplay of moral convictions and religious beliefs as it relates to our trust in authority.
The study was conducted on a nationally represented sample of adults- 53 percent female, 72 percent White, 12 percent Black and 11 percent Hispanic-who took an online survey about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on physician-assisted suicide.
The findings suggested that religious participants tended to trust the Supreme Court's ability to make the right decision, while the group with strong moral convictions felt distrust.
And, as it turned out, both groups based their beliefs on a gut reaction rather than on thoughtful, careful deliberation.
Participants took a survey designed to measure their support of or opposition to physician-assisted suicide, the extremity of their attitude, their moral convictions, their religiosity, their issue-specific trust in the Supreme Court and the time it took them to answer each question.
Participants who reported feeling strong moral convictions against physician-assisted suicide showed a greater distrust in the Supreme Court to make the right decision, and those who had high scores in religiosity tended to trust the Supreme Court.
Besides, both the religious group and the group with strong moral convictions responded quickly to the question of trust in the Supreme Court.
The researchers concluded that people with strong moral convictions seem to not only base their trust in judgment on a gut reaction, "they do not trust even legitimate authorities to make the right decision in the first place."
The study has been published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.