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Graduation Date

5-2015

Abstract

This pilot study examines the relationship between religious beliefs in Goa, India and views of poverty and wealth. Because the residents of Goa are traditionally practitioners of either Hinduism or Islam, this study contrasts how the tenets of these two religions affect individual causal attributions and descriptors of guilt or shame attached to poverty. It was hypothesized that perceptions of poverty and the poor would be markedly different in individuals from diverse religious backgrounds.

Findings from this preliminary study indicate there is a significant difference with regards to both causal attributions of poverty and descriptors of both the rich and the poor. Overall, Hindu participants tended to provide internal-individualistic causes while Muslims unanimously provided external causes for poverty.

Furthermore, causal attribution beliefs were congruent with how individuals from within the respective groups described both the rich and the poor. In describing the rich, Hindu followers used positive terms such as ‘hard-working’ and ‘good’ whereas Muslim followers provided both positive and negative responses that focused on access to opportunities and on not helping those who are less fortunate. Juxtaposed, in describing the poor, Hindu followers overwhelmingly provided terms such as ‘lazy’ or ‘bad’ that reflected negative character traits of those in poverty. In contrast, Muslim respondents provided terms that reflected structural differences in society.

Further research is scheduled for December 2014 in order to expand both the sample size and variance.

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