2015 Div. 36 Student Research Award Winners' Proposals

As he says or as he does?: The impact of punishing God-concepts on revenge behavior

Researchers predict that the most revenge will come from participants primed with vengeful God-concepts.

By Kristen Hull

Religion can be used to justify a range of behaviors, some positive and some negative. If a believer is harmed by another person, belief in a harsh and vengeful God could encourage forgiveness or justify retribution. This project will investigate the impact of vengeful God-concepts on revenge behavior. The procedure will begin by priming vengeful God-concepts and neutral religious constructs with word search tasks, before an insult from an ostensible “partner” will motivate participants to want revenge. They will get the opportunity to take revenge by depriving the partner of resources. We predict those primed with vengeful God-concepts will take more revenge by depriving their partner of more resources. In a second study, we will give half of participants more than one opportunity to keep resources from their partner and investigate whether getting a second opportunity to harm someone begins a cycle of retaliation or assuages anger. We predict the most revenge will come from participants primed with vengeful God-concepts and given two opportunities for revenge. Better understanding the impact of God-concept on antisocial behavior will further illuminate why people who may be equally religious can still endorse drastically different behaviors.