“Do Unto Others”: Effects of Priming the Golden Rule on Buddhists’ and Christians’ Attitudes Toward Gay People


Correspondence should be addressed to Oth Vilaythong T., Department of Psychology, York University, 297 Behavioural Science Building, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3, Canada. E-mail: ovt3c@virginia.edu


The Golden Rule, a core precept of many religions, emphasizes the importance of treating others with compassion. We examined whether priming Golden Rule messages would influence Buddhists’ and Christians’ attitudes toward gay people and perceptions that homosexuality is a choice. In a priming task, participants filled in missing words for popular quotations including two Golden Rule messages that were attributed to either Buddha or Jesus. Christians (N= 585) in the Buddha-attributed Golden Rule condition showed stronger explicit anti-gay attitudes and were more likely to agree that homosexuality is a choice than Christians in the Jesus-attributed or control conditions,inline image= .012,inline image= .035, even after controlling for political orientation and religiosity. Buddhists (inline image= 394) showed no variation in attitudes across priming conditions,inline image= .001,inline image= .78. Our results suggest that although the Golden Rule has an important influence on believers, its message of compassion may produce more prejudice if it comes from an outgroup source compared to an ingroup source.