The Effects of Disasters on View of and Relationship with God

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Daryl VanTongeren, Psychology

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Disasters can be a considerable threat to one’s sense of meaning. We examined the effects of priming disaster related stimuli on participants’ view of and relationship with God. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (a) implicit disaster threat, (b) explicit disaster threat, (c) implicit neutral prime, or (d) explicit neutral prime. Next, participants completed measures of meaning in life, as well as scales assessing their views of God (e.g., authoritarian, benevolent) and their relationship to God, including an implicit assessment of their relationship with God. We hypothesize that (religious) participants faced with a disaster prime will reaffirm their meaning and religious values compared to those in the control group. We also sought to explore how the disaster prime would affect how people related to God. We are in the process of collecting data (N~50; Target N=100), but we expect to find the data will support our hypothesis that meaning in life will be reaffirmed when a person is faced with a disaster scenario and that God associations will also be reaffirmed for religious participants. We will also examine whether the primes affected how relate with God. To analyze the data, we will run an ANOVA test comparing participant’s responses in all four conditions. This research has the potential to inform how religious and spiritual values may play a role in overcoming larger meaning threats, such as disasters.


This research was supported by the John Templeton Foundation.

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