Religious, Secular, Religion, Attributions
Pneuman Religious Inventory (HPRI), Vignettes for Life-Events Questionnaire
is concerned with the perceived causes of others and our own behavior (Coon,
1997). Spilka, Shaver, and Kirkpatrick (1985) proposed an attribution theory
for religion. The general attribution theory for religion seeks to understand
when and why people make religious versus secular attributions. God and
Satan are examples of religious attributions, whereas luck and chance are
examples of secular attributions.
Lupfer, Tolliver, and Jackson
(1996) were interested in finding out what types of attributions were made
for life-altering versus non life-altering situations with a positive or
negative valence. The results indicated that attributions to luck or chance
were cited most often for life-altering situations. The results also indicated
that those individuals with a very conservative view of Christianity attributed
God more often than those more liberal in their outlook of Christianity.
However, religious individuals did not make more religious than secular
attributions. When attributions to God were made they occurred more often
for life-altering situations than situations that were not life-altering.
Additionally, these attributions were made more often for positive situations.
Attributions to Satan were found to occur more often for negative situations.
Studies have also looked
at attributions to everyday behavior (Lupfer, Brock, & DePaola, 1992;
Lupfer, DePaola, Brock & Clement, 1994). It was found that attributions
to God were made more often for everyday positive than everyday negative
situations. The tendency to attribute positive outcomes to God was seen
more in the participants with a high commitment to conservative Christianity.
The purpose of the
present study was to (1) determine the type of attributions made more often
by both religious and non religious college students for four different
types of situations and (2) to determine when religious and non religious
college students made religious versus secular attributions.
from a pool of introductory college students at a small, Catholic, liberal
arts college in the northeastern United States. A total of 61 students
participated, with the average age being 19. Eighty-two percent of the
participants were Roman Catholic, 7% Protestant, and 12% were other.
The participants completed
the Vignettes for Life-Events Questionnaire (VLEQ, Burke, 2000) and the
Christian version of the Hilty Pneuman Religious Inventory (HPRI, Hilty,
1988). The VLEQ consisted of 12 vignettes (Burke, 2000). These vignettes
included three life-altering positive, three life-altering negative, three
everyday positive, and three everyday negative situations. Participants
were given three vignettes to read and five questions to answer after each
vignette. Question 1, for example, asked how much luck or chance determined
what happened in the vignette. The participants also filled out one subscale
of the HPRI, the Religious Belief subscale. The Religious Belief scale
deals with how much an individual accepts the traditional values of theological
Scores on the VLEQ were obtained
using a 7-point Likert scale. Responses to each question type were averaged.
The scores for each question type were averaged across the three vignettes
presented to a participant. Scores on the HPRI were obtained by interpreting
individual questions. Each response to questions in the affirmative was
given a point value ranging from one to five (1 = Strongly Disagree to
5 = Strongly Agree). Responses to questions in the negative were given
opposite point values (1 = Strongly Agree to 5 = Strongly Disagree). The
mean score was obtained for each individual.
more attributions to luck or chance in life-altering positive situations
than everyday positive situations. Also, participants who were given everyday
positive situations rated luck or chance as a lesser cause of the occurrences
in the vignettes than participants who were in the life-altering negative
Participants were more likely
to cite the person in the vignette for everyday positive situations than
life-altering negative situations. Also, participants were more likely
to rate the actor in the vignette more often for life-altering positive
situations than for everyday negative situations. It was also found that
participants made more attributions to the actor in the vignette concerning
everyday positive than life-altering positive situations.
For life-altering positive
situations, the higher the religiosity of the participant, the more attributions
he or she made to God. Finally, those high in religiosity, given everyday
positive occurrences, were more likely to make attributions to God than
those lower in religiosity.
It is peculiar that
religious individuals, especially Christians, believe that positive situations
are meant to happen, whereas negative situations are not because Christians
generally believe in free will. If situations are destined to be, that
means that human lives are predetermined. However, Christians do not believe
that their lives are predetermined. They believe that they have free will,
and this free will is what enables them to make choices that eventually
lead them to heaven, Hell, or purgatory. Therefore, it would seem as though
Christians would believe that situations are not destined. The finding
concerning attributions made to fate or destiny implicate that there is
a contradiction in many religious individuals’ beliefs about the nature
of God and humanity. Is it possible for one to believe in fate or destiny
and free will? If not, there may be a need for individuals to reevaluate
their current beliefs in all domains in order to maintain consistent beliefs.
Most importantly, the results
suggest that it may be possible to predict people's attributions based
on their religiosity. The results indicate that religious, Christian individuals
view God as a benevolent being. Interestingly, responses to life-altering
negative situations indicate that individuals may only make religious attributions
to events that affect human lives directly. For example, paralysis affects
a human life directly, whereas a home burning to the ground does not.
Burke, S. A. (2000). Vignettes for Life-Events
Questionnaire. Unpublished questionnaire, Saint Anselm College.
(1997) Social Behavior. In Essentials of Psychology: Exploration and
application (7th ed., pp. 645-647). Boston: Brooks/Cole.
Hilty, D. M. (1988).
Religious belief, participation, and consequences: An exploratory and confirmatory
analysis. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22, 243-259.
M. B., Brock, K. F., & DePaola, S. J. (1992). The use of secular and
religious attributions to explain everyday behavior. Journal for the
Scientific Study of Religion, 31, 486-503.
M. B., DePaola, S. J., Brock, K. F., & Clement, L. (1994). Making secular
and religious attributions: The availability hypothesis revisited. Journal
for the Scientific Study of Religion, 33, 162-171.
M. B., Tolliver, D., & Jackson, M. (1996). Explaining life-altering
occurrences: A test of the 'God-of-the-gaps' hypothesis. Journal for
the Scientific Study of Religion, 35, 379-391.
B., Shaver, P., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1985). A general attribution
theory for the psychology of religion. Journal for the Scientific Study
of Religion, 24, 1-18.
Views - The Psychology of Religion according to such psychologists
as Freud and Erikson.
- The history of the Psychology of Religion in the United States.
- The future of the discipline of Psychology of Religion.
- Books dealing with the Psychology of Religion.
- Links to Psychology and Religion Sites (from Christianity, to Judaism,
to Buddhism). It's all here!
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