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For God (or) country: the hydraulic relation between government instability and belief in religious sources of control

Faculty Advisor




compensatory control, God, system justification, political instability

Abstract (summary)

It has been recently proposed that people can flexibly rely on sources of control that are both internal and external to the self to satisfy the need to believe that their world is under control (i.e., that events do not unfold randomly or haphazardly). Consistent with this, past research demonstrates that, when personal control is threatened, people defend external systems of control, such as God and government. This theoretical perspective also suggests that belief in God and support for governmental systems, although seemingly disparate, will exhibit a hydraulic relationship with one another. Using both experimental and longitudinal designs in Eastern and Western cultures, the authors demonstrate that experimental manipulations or naturally occurring events (e.g., electoral instability) that lower faith in one of these external systems (e.g., the government) lead to subsequent increases in faith in the other (e.g., God). In addition, mediation and moderation analyses suggest that specific concerns with order and structure underlie these hydraulic effects. Implications for the psychological, sociocultural, and sociopolitical underpinnings of religious faith, as well as system justification theory, are discussed.

Publication Information

Kay, A. C., Shepherd, S., Blatz, C. W., Ning-Chau, S., & Galinsky, A. D. (2010). For God (or) country: The hydraulic relations between government instability and belief in religious sources of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 725-739. doi: 10.1037/a0021140.


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