Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Daniel N. McIntosh, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Iris Mauss

Third Advisor

Bernard Spilka

Fourth Advisor

Sandra Dixon


Meaning, Priming, Religion, Schema, Social support, Supernatural agency


There is longstanding tension in the study of religion between those who believe religion can be reduced to general psychosocial processes and those who think that religion is somehow unique. One way to test these two possibilities is to compare religious versions of mechanisms to nonreligious versions. If religion is somehow unique, then the religious versions should explain variance in outcomes that the nonreligious versions do not. Three studies confirmed religion's independent predictive power. Exposure to a religious supernatural agent reduced cheating more than exposure to a nonreligious supernatural agent (Study 1), receiving religious social support during a stressful task reduced cardiovascular reactivity (CVR) more than receiving nonreligious social support (Study 2), and exposure to a religious meaning system increased charitable donations more than exposure to a nonreligious meaning system (Study 3). Further, individual differences in beliefs moderated these and other effects, indicating that religion warrants attention at multiple levels. These studies offer the first experimental evidence that religion cannot be fully understood through general psychosocial processes. The psychological study of religion has the potential to make unique contributions to our understanding of human cognition, behavior, and health.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

A. Taylor Newton


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

144 p.


Psychology, Religion