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Fuqua School of Business
Duke University

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Publications [#273267] of Aaron C. Kay

Journal Articles

  1. Kay, AC; Gaucher, D; Napier, JL; Callan, MJ; Laurin, K, God and the government: testing a compensatory control mechanism for the support of external systems., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 95 no. 1 (July, 2008), pp. 18-35, ISSN 0022-3514 [doi]
    (last updated on 2022/08/07)

    The authors propose that the high levels of support often observed for governmental and religious systems can be explained, in part, as a means of coping with the threat posed by chronically or situationally fluctuating levels of perceived personal control. Three experiments demonstrated a causal relation between lowered perceptions of personal control and the defense of external systems, including increased beliefs in the existence of a controlling God (Studies 1 and 2) and defense of the overarching socio-political system (Study 4). A 4th experiment (Study 5) showed the converse to be true: A challenge to the usefulness of external systems of control led to increased illusory perceptions of personal control. In addition, a cross-national data set demonstrated that lower levels of personal control are associated with higher support for governmental control (across 67 nations; Study 3). Each study identified theoretically consistent moderators and mediators of these effects. The implications of these results for understanding why a high percentage of the population believes in the existence of God, and why people so often endorse and justify their socio-political systems, are discussed.

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