Title

When and Why Does Belief In a Controlling God Strengthen Goal Commitment?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-2018

Department

Psychology

Abstract

The perception that God controls one's life can bolster motivation to pursue personal goals, but it can also have no impact and even squelch motivation. To better understand how religious beliefs impact self-regulation, the current research built on Compensatory Control Theory's claim that perceiving the environment as predictable (vs. unpredictable) strengthens commitment to long-term goals. Perceiving God's intervention as following an understandable logic, which implies a predictable environment, increased self-reported and behavioral commitment to save money (Studies 1–3), excel academically (Study 4), and improve physical health (Study 5). In contrast, perceiving God as intervening in mysterious ways, which implies that worldly affairs are under control yet unpredictable, did not increase goal commitment. Exploratory mediational analyses focused on self-efficacy, response efficacy, and confidence in God's control. A meta-analysis (Study 6) yielded a reliable effect whereby belief in divine control supports goal pursuit specifically when it signals the predictability of one's environment.

Publication Title

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Volume

75

First Page

71

Last Page

82

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