Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Explaining Death by Tornado: Religiosity and the God-Serving Bias

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Archive for the Psychology of Religion

Two self-report experiments examined how religiosity affects attributions made for the outcome of a tornado. Undergraduate students ( N = 533) and online adults ( N = 537) read a fictional vignette about a tornado that hits a small town in the United States. The townspeople met at church and prayed or prepared emergency shelters for three days before the tornado; either no one died or over 200 people died from the tornado. Participants made attributions of cause to God, prayer, faith, and worship. In both studies, individuals identifying as Christian made more attributions to God, prayer, faith, and worship, but only when no one died; when townspeople died, Christian participants made fewer attributions to God, prayer, faith, and worship (the God-serving bias). Individuals identifying as agnostic or atheist did not show this bias. Directions for future research in terms of implicit religious beliefs and normative evaluations of religion are discussed.

Affiliations: 1:


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Abu-Rayya H., Abu-Rayya M., Khalil M. 2009"The multi-religion identity measure: A new scale for use with diverse religions" Journal of Muslim Mental HealthVol 4 124 138 [Crossref]
2. Amiot C. E., Aubin R. M. 2013"Why and how are you attached to your social group? Investigating different forms of social identification" British Journal of Social PsychologyVol 52 563 586 [Crossref]
3. Anderson C. A., Krull D. S., Weiner B. 1996"Explanations: Processes and consequences" Higgins E. T., Kruglanski A. W. Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles 271 296 New York Guilford
4. Anderson C. A., Lepper M. R., Ross L. 1980"Perseverance of social theories: The role of explanation in the persistence of discredited information" Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyVol 39 1037 1049 [Crossref]
5. Barrett J. L. 2004 Why would anyone believe in God? Walnut Creek, CA Altamira Press
6. Banaji M. R., Nosek B. A., Greenwald A. G. 2004"No place for nostalgia in science: A response to Arkes & Tetlock" Psychological InquiryVol 15 279 289 [Crossref]
7. Batson C. D., Raynor-Prince L. 1983"Religious orientation and complexity of thought about existential concerns" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 22 1 38 50 [Crossref]
8. Bennett K. 2004"Why did he die? The attributions of cause of death among women widowed in later life" Journal of Health PsychologyVol 9 345 353 [Crossref]
9. Bettencourt B., Hume D. 1999"The cognitive contents of social-group identity: Values, emotions, and relationships" European Journal of Social PsychologyVol 29 113 121 [Crossref]
10. Bowie F. 2006 The anthropology of religion: An introduction 2nd ed. Malden, MA Blackwell
11. Boyer P. 2003"Religious thought and behavior as by-products of brain function" Trends in Cognitive SciencesVol 7 119 124 [Crossref]
12. Brodd J. 2003 World religions Winona, MN Saint Mary’s Press
13. Bruynell M. 2012"The dangers of modern day belief in the supernatural: International persecution of witches and albinos" Suffolk Transnational Law ReviewVol 35 393
14. Buhrmester M., Kwang T., Gosling S. D. 2011"Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality, data?" Perspectives on Psychological ScienceVol 6 3 5 [Crossref]
15. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge 2014 Prayer for safety in hurricane season Retrieved December 27, 2016 from
16. Catholic Review 2015 July The patron saint of the hurricane season: Praying to St. Medard for protection Retrieved December 29, 2016 from
17. Chaiken S., Liberman A., Eagly A. H. 1989"Heuristic and systematic information processing within and beyond the persuasion context" Uleman J. S., Bargh J. A. Unintended thought 212 252 New York Guilford
18. CNN 2013 May Wolf Blitzer, Moore, OK tornado Retrieved January 1, 2017 from
19. Cohen G. L. 2003"Party over policy: The dominating impact of group influence on political beliefs" Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyVol 85 808 822 [Crossref]
20. Colley C. 2004"The omnipotence of God" Apologetics Press Retrieved from
21. Crano W. D. 1995"Attitude strength and vested interest" Petty R. E., Krosnick J. A. Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences 131 157 Hillsdale, NJ Erlbaum
22. Cross F. L., Livingstone E. A. 1997"Infallibility" The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church 831 New York Oxford University Press
23. Crowne D. P., Marlowe D. 1960"A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology" Journal of Consulting PsychologyVol 24 349 354 [Crossref]
24. da Rosa M. I., Silva F. R., Silva B. R., Costa L. C., Bergamo A. M., Silva N. C., , et al Azevedo R. 2013"A randomized clinical trial on the effects of remote intercessory prayer in the adverse outcomes of pregnancies" Ciencia and Saude ColetivaVol 18 2379 2384 Retrieved September 15, 2013 from [Crossref]
25. Dabashi H. 2006 Theology of discontent: The ideological foundation of the Islamic revolution in Iran Livingston, NJ Transaction Publishers
26. Darley J. M., Batson C. 1973"‘From Jerusalem to Jericho’: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior" Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyVol 27 100 108 [Crossref]
27. Dein S., Pargament K. 2012"On not praying for the return of an amputated limb: Conserving a relationship with God as the primary function of prayer" Bulletin of the Menninger ClinicVol 76 235 259 [Crossref]
28. Faber M. D. 2001 The magic of prayer: An introduction to the psychology of faith Westport, CT Praeger
29. Fazio R. H., Sanbonmatsu D. M., Powell M. C., Kardes F. R. 1986"On the automatic activation of attitudes" Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyVol 50 229 238 [Crossref]
30. Fiske S. T. 2004 Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology New York Wiley
31. Fleming F., Lothian A. 2012 Ancient Egypt’s myths and beliefs New York Rosen Publishing Group
32. Frey U. 2009"Cognitive foundations of religiosity" Voland E., Schiefenhövel W. The biological evolution of religious mind and behavior 229 241 New York Springer Science + Business Media [Crossref]
33. Furnham A. 2003"Belief in a just world: Research progress over the past decade" Personality & Individual DifferencesVol 34 795 817 [Crossref]
34. Furnham A., Proctor E. 1989"Belief in a just world: Review and critique of the individual difference literature" British Journal of Social PsychologyVol 28 365 384 [Crossref]
35. Gallup 2011 December Christianity remains dominant religion in the United States Retrieved August 23, 2013 from
36. Gallup 2015 Percentage of Christians in U.S. drifting down, but still high Retrieved December 24, 2016 from
37. Gilovich T. D., Griffin D. W. 2010"Judgment and decision making" Fiske S. T., Gilbert D. T., Lindzey G. Handbook of social psychologyVol Vol. 1 5th ed. 542 588 Hoboken, NJ Wiley
38. Gray K., Wegner D. M. 2010"Blaming God for our pain: Human suffering and the divine mind" Personality and Social Psychology ReviewVol 14 7 16 [Crossref]
39. Greenwald A. G., McGhee D. E., Schwartz J. L. 1998"Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit associations test" Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyVol 74 1464 1480 [Crossref]
40. Guenther C. L., Alicke M. D. 2008"Self-enhancement and belief perseverance" Journal of Experimental Social PsychologyVol 44 706 712 [Crossref]
41. Heider F. 1958 The psychology of interpersonal relations New York Wiley [Crossref]
42. Heiphetz L., Spelke E. S., Banaji M. R. 2013"Patterns of implicit and explicit attitudes in children and adults: Tests in the domain of religion" Journal of Experimental Psychology: GeneralVol 142 864 879 [Crossref]
43. Hogg M. A., Adelman J. R., Blagg R. D. 2010"Religion in the face of uncertainty: An uncertainty-identity theory account of religiousness" Personality and Social Psychology ReviewVol 14 72 83 [Crossref]
44. Kay A. C., Gaucher D., McGregor I., Nash K. 2010"Religious belief as compensatory control" Personality and Social Psychology ReviewVol 14 37 48 [Crossref]
45. Kelley J., De Graaf N. D. 1997"National context, parental socialization, and religious belief: Results from 15 nations" American Sociological ReviewVol 62 4 639 659 [Crossref]
46. Krause N. 2004"Assessing the relationships among prayer expectancies, race, and self-esteem in late life" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 43 395 408 [Crossref]
47. Krause N., Chatters L. M., Meltzer T., Morgan D. L. 2000"Using focus groups to explore the nature of prayer in late life" Journal of Aging StudiesVol 14 191 212 [Crossref]
48. Kruglanski A. W. 1975"The endogenous-exogenous partition in attribution theory" Psychological ReviewVol 82 387 406 [Crossref]
49. Kunda Z. 1990"The case for motivated reasoning" Psychological BulletinVol 108 480 498 [Crossref]
50. Lawrence C. 2009"I’m right, you’re dead: Speculations about the roots of fanaticism" Stritzke W. K., Lewandowsky S., Denemark D., Clare J., Morgan F. Terrorism and torture: An interdisciplinary perspective 313 324 New York Cambridge University Press [Crossref]
51. Loewenthal K. M., Cornwall N. 1993"Religiosity and perceived control of life events" International Journal for the Psychology of ReligionVol 3 39 45 [Crossref]
52. Lowe S. R., Rhodes J. E., Waters M. C. 2015"Understanding resilience and other trajectories of psychological distress: A mixed-methods study of low-income mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina" Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological IssuesVol 34 537 550
53. Luhrman T. M. 2013"Making God real and making God good: Some mechanisms through which prayer may contribute to healing" Transcultural PsychiatryVol 50 736 743 [Crossref]
54. Lupfer M. B., Brock K. F., DePaola S. J. 1992"The use of secular and religious attributions to explain everyday behavior" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 31 486 503 [Crossref]
55. Lupfer M. B., DePaola S. J., Brock K. F., Clement L. 1994"Making secular and religious attributions: The availability hypothesis revisited" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 33 162 171 [Crossref]
56. Lupfer M. B., Tolliver D., Jackson M. 1996"Explaining life-altering occurrences: A test of the ‘God-of-the-gaps’ hypothesis" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 35 379 391 [Crossref]
57. McCullough M. E., Sandage S. J., Worthington E. L. 1997"Charles Williams on interpersonal forgiveness: Theology and therapy" Journal of Psychology and ChristianityVol 14 4 355 364
58. Meffert M. F., Chung S., Joiner A. J., Waks L., Garst J. 2006"The effects of negativity and motivated information processing during a political campaign" Journal of CommunicationVol 56 27 51 [Crossref]
59. Mehta H. 2012 The young atheist’s survival guide: Helping secular students thrive Englewood, CO Patheos Press
60. Miner M. H., McKnight J. J. 1999"Religious attributions: Situational factors and effects on coping" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 38 2 274 286 [Crossref]
61. Montell C. 2001"Speculations on a privileged state of cognitive dissonance" Journal for the Theory of Social BehaviourVol 31 119 137 [Crossref]
62. Nickerson R. S. 1998"Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises" Review of General PsychologyVol 2 175 220 [Crossref]
63. Ouellette J. A., Wood W. 1998"Habit and intention in everyday life: The multiple processes by which past behavior predicts future behavior" Psychological BulletinVol 124 54 74 [Crossref]
64. Pargament K. I., Ensing D. S., Falgout K., Olsen H., Reilly B., Haitsma K., Warren R. 1990"God help me: Religious coping efforts as predictors of the outcomes to significant negative life events" American Journal of Community PsychologyVol 18 793 824 [Crossref]
65. Pargament K. I., Koenig H. G., Perez L. M. 2000"The many methods of religious coping: Development and initial validation of the RCOPE" Journal of Clinical PsychologyVol 56 519 543 [Crossref]
66. Riggio H. R. 2008"Political party, strength of identification, and knowledge and evaluation of Bush v. Gore" Journal of Applied Social PsychologyVol 38 1 234 279 [Crossref]
67. Riggio H. R., Uhalt J., Matthies B. K. 2014"Unanswered prayers: Religiosity and the god-serving bias" Journal of Social PsychologyVol 154 6 491 514 [Crossref]
68. Science & Religion Today 2012 December 18 Retrieved on March 24, 2014 from
69. Sedikides C., Green J. D. 2000"On the self-protective nature of inconsistency-negativity management: Using the person memory paradigm to examine self-referent memory" Journal of Personality and Social PsychologyVol 79 906 922 [Crossref]
70. Sezgin U., Punamäki R. 2012"Earthquake trauma and causal explanation associating with PTSD and other psychiatric disorders among South East Anatolian women" Journal of Affective DisordersVol 141 432 440 [Crossref]
71. Shane M. S., Peterson J. B. 2004"Self-induced memory distortions and the allocation of processing resources at encoding and retrieval" Cognition and EmotionVol 18 533 558 [Crossref]
72. Shariff A. F., Norenzayan A. 2011"Mean gods make good people: Different views of God predict cheating behavior" International Journal for the Psychology of ReligionVol 21 85 96 [Crossref]
73. Spilka B., Schmidt G. 1983"General attribution theory for the psychology of religion: The influence of event-character on attributions to god" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 22 326 339 [Crossref]
74. Staples C. L., Mauss A. L. 1987"Conversion or commitment? A reassessment of the Snow and Machalek approach to the study of conversion" Journal for the Scientific Study of ReligionVol 26 133 147 Retrieved July 22, 2013 from [Crossref]
75. Stark R. 2008 What Americans really believe Waco, TX Baylor University
76. Stephens N. M., Fryberg S. A., Markus H. R., Hamedani M. G. 2013"Who explains Hurricane Katrina and the Chilean earthquake as an act of God? The experience of extreme hardship predicts religious meaning-making" Journal of Cross-Cultural PsychologyVol 44 606 619 [Crossref]
77. Tajfel H., Turner J. C. 2004"The social identity theory of intergroup behavior" Jost J. T., Sidanius J. Political psychology: Key readings 276 293 New York, NY Psychology Press
78. Taylor R. 2000 Death and the afterlife: A cultural encyclopedia Santa Barbara, CA ABC CLIO
79. Turner M. E., Pratkanis A. R., Struckman C. K. 2007"Groupthink as social identity maintenance" Pratkanis A. R. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress 223 246 New York Psychology Press
80. Van Tongeren D. R., Green J. D. 2010"Combating meaninglessness: On the automatic defense of meaning" Personality and Social Psychology BulletinVol 36 1372 1384 [Crossref]
81. Voas D. 2007"Surveys of behavior, beliefs and affiliation: Micro-quantitative" Beckford J. A., Demerath N. J. The Sage handbook of the sociology of religion 144 166 London Sage [Crossref]
82. Weiner B. 1992"Excuses in everyday interaction" McLaughlin M. L., Cody M. J., Read S. J. Explaining one’s self to others: Reason-giving in a social context 131 146 Hillsdale, NJ Lawrence Erlbaum
83. Weiner B. 2012"An attribution theory of motivation" Van Lange P. M., Kruglanski A. W., Higgins E. Handbook of theories of social psychologyVol Vol. 1 135 155 Thousand Oaks, CA Sage
84. Whitson J. A., Galinsky A. D. 2008"Lacking control increases illusory pattern perception" ScienceVol 322 115 117 [Crossref]
85. Woolley J. D. 2000"The development of beliefs about direct mental—physical causality in imagination, magic, and religion" Rosengren K. S., Johnson C. N., Harris P. L. Imagining the impossible: Magical, scientific, and religious thinking in children 99 129 Cambridge, United Kingdom Cambridge University Press [Crossref]
86. Yoshida E., Peach J. M., Zanna M. P., Spencer S. J. 2012"Not all automatic associations are created equal: How implicit normative evaluations are distinct from implicit attitudes and uniquely predict meaningful behavior" Journal of Experimental Social PsychologyVol 48 694 706 [Crossref]

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Archive for the Psychology of Religion — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation