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AI Programs May Undermine Credibility of Religious Groups, Study Finds

As artificial intelligence expands across more professions, robot preachers and AI programs offer new means of sharing religious beliefs. However, a new study suggests that these technologies may undermine the credibility of religious groups and reduce donations.


The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, was conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago. They conducted three experiments, two of which involved participants hearing sermons delivered by either a human or a robot. In the third experiment, participants read a sermon that they were told was either written by a human or an AI program.


In all three experiments, participants rated the human preachers as more credible than the robots or AI programs. They also gave smaller donations to the religious groups that relied on the robots or AI programs.


The researchers believe that this is because people are less likely to believe that robots or AI programs can truly hold religious beliefs. They also suggest that these technologies may not be able to provide the same level of personal connection as a human preacher.



"Robots and AI programs can't truly hold any religious beliefs so religious organizations may see declining commitment from their congregations if they rely more on technology than on human leaders who can demonstrate their faith," said lead researcher Joshua Conrad Jackson, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Chicago in the Booth School of Business.


The study's findings have implications for religious groups that are considering using robots or AI programs to deliver sermons or other religious content. The researchers suggest that these groups should carefully consider the potential impact on their credibility and donations before making a decision.


The study's findings are also relevant to broader discussions about the role of technology in religion. As AI and other technologies continue to develop, it is likely that they will play an increasingly important role in religious life. However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks, such as the undermining of credibility, that these technologies may pose.


The study's authors hope that their findings will help religious groups make informed decisions about the use of technology in their religious practices. They also hope that the study will spark a broader discussion about the role of technology in religion.


Journal Information: Joshua Jackson et al. Exposure to Robot Preachers Undermines Religious Commitment, Journal of Experimental Psychology (2023). DOI: 10.1037/xge0001443. www.apa.org/pubs/journals/rele … s/xge-xge0001443.pdf

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