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How Ordinary Cognition Informs Petitionary Prayer

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Four studies (two experiments, a journaling study, and a questionnaire) conducted with American Protestant college students explored intuitions concerning petitionary prayer. Since Protestant theology offers little teaching on through which modes of causation God is most likely to act, it was hypothesized that intuitive causal cognition would be used to generate inferences regarding this aspect of petitionary prayer. Participants in these studies favored asking God to act via psychological causation over the biological and mechanistic domains. Further, in fictitious scenarios participants reported being more likely to ask a supercomputer or Superman to solve a problem through mechanistic intervention than God. These results are consistent with two previous findings: that God is often intuitively represented as having a single physical location (and it is not nearby); and psychosocial agents (such as God) are expected to require physical contact to act on non-agents.


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