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A Sense of ‘Special Connection’, Self-transcendent Values and a Common Factor for Religious and Non-religious Spirituality

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We examined the hypothesis that a tendency to experience the world in terms of a sense of ‘special’ connection is responsible for the self-transcendent value dimension identified by multi-dimensional scaling and constitutes a common factor for different religious and non-religious interpretations of spirituality. Eight different groups were studied including: (a) six different types of faith leaders in India and the UK, (b) people who self-rated as spiritual but not religious, and (c) those self-rating as neither spiritual nor religious. They completed a questionnaire that assessed (a) the strength of their spirituality irrespective of type (self-perceived spirituality) and (b) the experience of special connection to the following categories: people, nature, places and the universe, with and without using the term spiritual. For all eight samples the different types of connection were highly inter-correlated, and self-perceived spirituality correlated with the sum of connection items irrespective of whether items included the term spiritual or not. Variation between groups in the size of the latter correlation was consistent with different interpretations of spirituality in those groups. Although the meaning of spirituality is socially constructed, variability within faith leader groups suggests that its interpretation is also affected by personality.

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, University of Plymouth Plymouth PL4 8AA UK, Email:; 2: School of Psychology, University of Plymouth Plymouth PL4 8AA UK; 3: Department of Psychology, Karnatak University Dharwad 580 003, Karnataka State India; 4: Department of Psychology, Syracuse University 430 Huntington Hall, Syracuse,NY 13244-2340 USA


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