God and the government: testing a compensatory control mechanism for the support of external systems.


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.

DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.1.18
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@article{Kay2008GodAT, title={God and the government: testing a compensatory control mechanism for the support of external systems.}, author={Aaron C. Kay and Danielle Gaucher and Jamie L Napier and Mitchell J. Callan and Kristin Laurin}, journal={Journal of personality and social psychology}, year={2008}, volume={95 1}, pages={18-35} }