Waterloo - God & Government

Waterloo - God & Government - Journal of...

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God and the Government: Testing a Compensatory Control Mechanism for the Support of External Systems Aaron C. Kay and Danielle Gaucher University of Waterloo Jamie L. Napier New York University Mitchell J. Callan University of Western Ontario Kristin Laurin University of Waterloo The authors propose that the high levels of support often observed for governmental and religious systems can be explained, in part, as a means of coping with the threat posed by chronically or situationally fluctuating levels of perceived personal control. Three experiments demonstrated a causal relation between lowered perceptions of personal control and the defense of external systems, including increased beliefs in the existence of a controlling God (Studies 1 and 2) and defense of the overarching socio-political system (Study 4). A 4th experiment (Study 5) showed the converse to be true: A challenge to the usefulness of external systems of control led to increased illusory perceptions of personal control. In addition, a cross-national data set demonstrated that lower levels of personal control are associated with higher support for governmental control (across 67 nations; Study 3). Each study identified theoretically consistent moderators and mediators of these effects. The implications of these results for understanding why a high percentage of the population believes in the existence of God, and why people so often endorse and justify their socio-political systems, are discussed. Keywords: system justification, control, God, religion, governmental support Approximately 95% of the American population believes in prevalence of this belief, understanding its psychological foun- dations has obvious implications for our understanding of basic psychological functioning. Surprisingly little is known, how- ever, about why the majority of people, in the majority of the cultures around the world, believe in a higher order controlling influence such as God. Likewise, people have a remarkable ability to justify and defend the sociopolitical systems that 2004; Kay et al., 2007). In this context too there is little empirical evidence examining why this is the case. In noting the dearth of research on the psychological bases of religion, Baumeister (2002) drew particular attention to the utility of research in this domain for uncovering broad psychological principles and for developing social psychological theory. Fol- lowing that perspective, and inspired by previous psychological describe a general social psychological model developed to help explain the relationship people hold with external systems of control—systems such as governments, societal institutions, religious ideologies, and the like—and then test this model first in the context of religious beliefs and then in the context of beliefs about governmental systems. Compensatory Control and the Endorsement of External
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This note was uploaded on 12/20/2010 for the course SOC 101 taught by Professor Sullivan during the Spring '08 term at ASU.

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Waterloo - God & Government - Journal of...

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