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Agency Detection in God Concepts: Essential, Situational, and Individual Factors

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AbstractWe investigate how current models of the conceptual representation of God as highly agentive have consequences for how the God concept is processed in memory for stories when God is not presented as specifically agentive. Participants read stories describing a person experiencing a potentially harmful situation, avoiding the harm, and then thanking either God or luck. Results indicate significant differences between recall of the God and luck stories: God was recalled more often, recalled with intentional language, and God stories were recalled with more intrusions than luck stories. However, results indicate no differences between God and luck story recall on a subsequent recognition task. Participants’ religious identity correlated with both recall and recognition scores. Findings are taken as evidence of a God concept that is represented as highly agentive, and differences between the recognition and recall task reflect differences between intuitive and explicit theology. Results further our knowledge about the way conceptual representation of the supernatural can influence text processing, and suggest ways in which the perception of agency can be influenced.


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