The Development of Reasoning about Religious Norms: Insights from Hindu and Muslim children in India

Colloquium | March 6 | 12:10-1:15 p.m. | 1104 Berkeley Way West

 Mahesh Srinivasan, Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley Psychology

 Institute of Personality and Social Research

Children who live in pluralistic societies often encounter members of other religious and secular groups who hold radically different beliefs and norms. Under these circumstances, developing religious tolerance––respecting that each group has its own beliefs and norms––is both challenging and crucial. When individuals in pluralistic societies fail to develop religious tolerance, the consequences can be dire. For example, in India, Muslims have recently been attacked because they were suspected of violating the Hindu prohibition against killing cows. Promoting peaceful co-existence among groups thus requires understanding how people construe and tolerate religious differences. In this talk, I will present a recent line of work on the development of religious tolerance among Hindu and Muslim children in Gujarat, India—a site of recent violent Hindu-Muslim conflict. These studies explore how Hindu and Muslim children conceptualize rules from their own religion, as well as rules from the other religion. For example, we probe children’s beliefs about to whom religious rules apply, whether violations of these rules should be punished, and how the contexts in which rule violations take place affect children’s evaluations. Our findings suggest that although children’s application of religious norms across groups and contexts often allows for peaceful coexistence, it might also lead to conflict.

 ipsr@berkeley.edu, 510-642-5050