The Purpose Driven Life

Kevin Lewis

January 28, 2010

Protestants and Catholics: Similar Work Ethic, Different Social Ethic

Benito Arruñada
Economic Journal, forthcoming

This article develops two hypotheses about economically-relevant values of Christian believers, according to which Protestants should work more and more effectively, as in the 'work ethic' argument of Max Weber, or display a stronger 'social ethic' that would lead them to monitor each other's conduct, support political and legal institutions and hold more homogeneous values. Tests using current survey data confirm substantial partial correlations and possible different 'effects' in mutual social control, institutional performance and homogeneity of values but no difference in work ethics. Protestantism therefore seems conducive to capitalist economic development, not by the direct psychological route of the Weberian work ethic but rather by promoting an alternative social ethic that facilitates impersonal trade.



Peter Leeson
George Mason University Working Paper, January 2010

For 400 years the most sophisticated persons in Europe decided difficult criminal cases by asking the defendant to thrust his arm into a cauldron of boiling water and fish out a ring. If his arm was unharmed, he was exonerated. If not, he was convicted. Alternatively, a priest dunked the defendant in a pool. Sinking proved his innocence; floating proved his guilt. People called these trials ordeals. No one alive today believes ordeals were a good way to decide defendants' guilt. But maybe they should. This paper investigates the law and economics of ordeals. I argue that ordeals accurately assigned accused criminals' guilt and innocence. They did this by leveraging a medieval superstition called iudicium Dei. According to this superstition, God condemned the guilty and exonerated the innocent through clergy conducted physical tests.


Who is watching over you? The role of shared identity in perceptions of surveillance

Aisling O'Donnell, Jolanda Jetten & Michelle Ryan
European Journal of Social Psychology, February 2010, Pages 135-147

Two studies were conducted to investigate the role of social identity in appraisals of the purpose and acceptance of surveillance. In Study 1 (N = 112), a survey study demonstrated that there is a negative relationship between identification with one's city and the extent to which public closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance is perceived as an invasion of privacy. This relationship was mediated by perceptions that the purpose of surveillance is to ensure safety. Study 2 (N = 139) manipulated identity salience at the sub-group and superordinate level and the source of surveillance. Results demonstrated that surveillance originating from fellow sub-group members was perceived as less privacy invading than surveillance originating from the superordinate group, but only when that sub-group identity was salient. No differences in perceptions of privacy invasion were found when the more inclusive identity was made salient. We argue that whether surveillance is perceived as an invasion of privacy depends on the perceived social relationship with the source of the surveillance - surveillance is perceived as more acceptable when it originates from a group with which one identifies or shares an identity. Practical implications are discussed.


Religious Belief as Compensatory Control

Aaron Kay, Danielle Gaucher, Ian McGregor & Kyle Nash
Personality and Social Psychology Review, forthcoming

The authors review experimental evidence that religious conviction can be a defensive source of compensatory control when personal or external sources of control are low.They show evidence that (a) belief in religious deities and secular institutions can serve as external forms of control that can compensate for manipulations that lower personal control and (b) religious conviction can also serve as compensatory personal control after experimental manipulations that lower other forms of personal or external control.The authors review dispositional factors that differentially orient individuals toward external or personal varieties of compensatory control and conclude that compensatory religious conviction can be a flexible source of personal and external control for relief from the anxiety associated with random and uncertain experiences.


Priming God-Related Concepts Increases Anxiety and Task Persistence

Tina Toburen & Brian Meier
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, forthcoming

Research on the relationship between religiosity and anxiety has been mixed, with some studies revealing a positive relation and other studies revealing a negative relation. The current research used an experimental design, perhaps for the first time, to examine anxiety and task persistence during a stressful situation. Christians and Atheists/Agnostics/Others were primed with God-related or neutral (non-God related) concepts before completing an unsolvable anagram task described as a measure of "verbal intelligence." The results revealed that the God-related primes increased both task persistence and anxiousness, which suggests that experimentally induced God-related thoughts caused participants to persist longer on a stressful task, but also to feel more anxious after finishing it. No effect of religious affiliation was found, however, indicating that God-related priming affected Christians and non-Christians in a similar fashion.


Why Religion's Burdens Are Light: From Religiosity to Implicit Self-Regulation

Sander Koole, Michael McCullough, Julius Kuhl & Peter Roelofsma
Personality and Social Psychology Review, February 2010, Pages 95-107

To maintain religious standards, individuals must frequently endure aversive or forsake pleasurable experiences. Yet religious individuals on average display higher levels of emotional well-being compared to nonreligious individuals. The present article seeks to resolve this paradox by suggesting that many forms of religion may facilitate a self-regulatory mode that is flexible, efficient, and largely unconscious. In this implicit mode of self-regulation, religious individuals may be able to strive for high standards and simultaneously maintain high emotional well-being. A review of the empirical literature confirmed that religious stimuli and practices foster implicit self-regulation, particularly among individuals who fully internalized their religion's standards. The present work suggests that some seemingly irrational aspects of religion may have important psychological benefits by promoting implicit self-regulation.


Disgust and the Moralization of Purity

E.J. Horberg, Christopher Oveis, Dacher Keltner & Adam Cohen
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, December 2009, Pages 963-976

Guided by appraisal-based models of the influence of emotion upon judgment, we propose that disgust moralizes-that is, amplifies the moral significance of-protecting the purity of the body and soul. Three studies documented that state and trait disgust, but not other negative emotions, moralize the purity moral domain but not the moral domains of justice or harm/care. In Study 1, integral feelings of disgust, but not integral anger, predicted stronger moral condemnation of behaviors violating purity. In Study 2, experimentally induced disgust, compared with induced sadness, increased condemnation of behaviors violating purity and increased approval of behaviors upholding purity. In Study 3, trait disgust, but not trait anger or trait fear, predicted stronger condemnation of purity violations and greater approval of behaviors upholding purity. We found that, confirming the domain specificity of the disgust-purity association, disgust was unrelated to moral judgments about justice (Studies 1 and 2) or harm/care (Study 3). Finally, across studies, individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) were more likely than individuals of higher SES to moralize purity but not justice or harm/care.


Uncertainty and religious reactivity: Uncertainty compensation, repair, and inoculation

Aaron Wichman
European Journal of Social Psychology, February 2010, Pages 35-42

Recent research conducted in Western, democratic societies indicates that temporary uncertainty inductions lead to intolerance of religious dissent, increased conviction in religious attitudes, and even increased support for holy war. Past and current conflicts based on religious ideology underscore the danger such responses to uncertainty can pose. This paper responds to the need to learn how to control responses to uncertainty. After having confirmed through pilot testing that uncertainty increases self-report religious faith, two subsequent studies investigate different techniques to control compensatory responses to uncertainty. Study 1 demonstrates that uncertainty-induced increases in religiosity can be eliminated by a post-uncertainty directed positive recall writing task. Study 2 presents evidence for an uncertainty inoculation, whereby a pre-uncertainty self-affirmation exercise can protect against uncertainty compensation effects. These findings, in combination with a consideration of previous research, offer insight into how undesirable uncertainty compensation effects might be reduced and even prevented.


Blaming God for Our Pain: Human Suffering and the Divine Mind

Kurt Gray & Daniel Wegner
Personality and Social Psychology Review, February 2010, Pages 7-16

Believing in God requires not only a leap of faith but also an extension of people's normal capacity to perceive the minds of others. Usually, people perceive minds of all kinds by trying to understand their conscious experience (what it is like to be them) and their agency (what they can do). Although humans are perceived to have both agency and experience, humans appear to see God as possessing agency, but not experience. God's unique mind is due, the authors suggest, to the uniquely moral role He occupies. In this article, the authors propose that God is seen as the ultimate moral agent, the entity people blame and praise when they receive anomalous harm and help. Support for this proposition comes from research on mind perception, morality, and moral typecasting. Interestingly, although people perceive God as the author of salvation, suffering seems to evoke even more attributions to the divine.


From What Might Have Been to What Must Have Been: Counterfactual Thinking Creates Meaning

Laura Kray, Linda George, Katie Liljenquist, Adam Galinsky, Philip Tetlock & Neal Roese
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Four experiments explored whether two uniquely human characteristics - counterfactual thinking (imagining alternatives to the past) and the fundamental drive to create meaning in life - are causally related. Rather than implying a random quality to life, we hypothesized and found that counterfactual thinking heightens the meaningfulness of key life experiences. Reflecting on alternative pathways to pivotal turning points even produced greater meaning than directly reflecting on the meaning of the event itself. Fate perceptions ("it was meant to be") and benefit-finding (recognition of positive consequences) were identified as independent causal links between counterfactual thinking and the construction of meaning. Through counterfactual reflection, the upsides to reality are identified, a belief in fate emerges, and ultimately more meaning is derived from important life events.


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