Spontaneous religious attributions of Christian tertiary students (1988)
AuthorsVan Dijk, Petershow all
Seventy four Christian tertiary students were presented with six hypothetical life event descriptions and asked to imagine that these events were happening to them. Subjects then listed any thoughts that went through their minds as they faced the events. Spontaneous attributions to God and the Devil were produced by some of the sample. Spontaneous attributions to God's hand, God's will and God's general control were strongly related to the importance of religion and prayer. These attributions appeared to provide meaning and comfort, especially for those confronted with serious health problems. This study supports the view that God attribution is an important part of people's religious belief and meaning system, but casts doubt on the view that God image plays a significant role in determining the situations where God attributions occur. An attempt was made to test the validity of the forced choice method traditionally used to scale religious attributions. The patterns of spontaneous and forced choice religious attributions were similar across the different situations, yet attribution to religious sources was significantly greater using the forced choice method. It is concluded that the forced choice method tends to elicit reactive measures, and that the richness and spontaneity of the thought listing responses provides a more accurate picture of people's spontaneous religious attributions.