Godless by association: Deficits in trust mediate antiatheist stigma-by-association

Andrew S. Franks, Kyle C. Scherr, Bryan Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In the United States, atheists elicit high levels of sociopolitical rejection that is primarily motivated by a lack of trust. Across three studies, we use evaluative conditioning (EC) as a theoretical framework to evaluate whether these deficits extended to candidates who are not atheists themselves but merely perceived to be associated with atheism. Study 1 found that implicit trust, explicit trust, and voting intentions toward target candidates were all negatively impacted by an EC procedure that paired a candidate's face with words related to atheism. Study 2 found that trust and political support for a Christian candidate was eroded when he expressed proatheist public policy position. In both experiments, trust mediated the effects of atheist associations on voting intentions for religiously affiliated participants. Study 3 found the same moderated-mediation pattern. Religiously affiliated participants who perceived Barack Obama as being more favorable toward atheists were less likely to vote for him, in large part due to a lack of trust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-316
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Atheism and nonreligion
  • Evaluative conditioning
  • Political psychology
  • Stigma-byassociation
  • Trust


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