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Clinical Trial
, 31 (3), 219-47

Conceptualizing a Nonnatural Entity: Anthropomorphism in God Concepts

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Clinical Trial

Conceptualizing a Nonnatural Entity: Anthropomorphism in God Concepts

J L Barrett et al. Cogn Psychol.

Abstract

We investigate the problem of how nonnatural entities are represented by examining university students' concepts of God, both professed theological beliefs and concepts used in comprehension of narratives. In three story processing tasks, subjects often used an anthropomorphic God concept that is inconsistent with stated theological beliefs; and drastically distorted the narratives without any awareness of doing so. By heightening subjects' awareness of their theological beliefs, we were able to manipulate the degree of anthropomorphization. This tendency to anthropomorphize may be generalizable to other agents. God (and possibly other agents) is unintentionally anthropomorphized in some contexts, perhaps as a means of representing poorly understood nonnatural entities.

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