Psychology of Religion

Much of our research focuses on the antecedents and outcomes of diverse representations of God as authoritarian (punishing), benevolent (forgiving), limitless (infinite), mystical (cosmic force), or incomprehensible (unknowable).

Nearly all religious traditions describe God in these ways but there are vast differences in the way that individual people think about and relate with the Divine in their own lives. In terms of the predictors or antecedents of these beliefs, we have focused on the effects of: (1) self-protection elicited by physical and resource threats, (2) self-expansion in times of prosperity, (3) self-transcendence from exposure to religious diversity, (4) interest in science, and (5) spatial perception.

Emphasizing various attributes of God also impacts moral concerns and values. We are particularly interested in the association between God-concepts and (1) sustainability, (2) religious conflict, (3) volunteerism, and (4) overall worldview. At the group level, we examine whether broad social changes are related to aggregate shifts in God representations and values. Ultimately, our goal is to systematically examine how social contexts activate basic social motivations that interact with individual differences, leading to variation in representations of God, social attitudes and behaviors.

Opportunity Info

Research Area:

Course Info
Course Credit: 
PSY 399 or PSY 499

Interview required

Lab Director(s): 
Kathryn Johnson, PhD
Adam Cohen, PhD