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Fuqua School of Business
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Publications [#362380] of Aaron C. Kay

Journal Articles

  1. Stanley, ML; Kay, AC, Belief in divine moral authority satisfies the psychological need for structure and increases in the face of perceived injustice, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 101 (July, 2022) [doi]
    (last updated on 2023/10/01)

    Across eight studies, we investigated why so many people across different cultures and religious traditions ground morality and God, and why beliefs in God as a supreme moral authority increase in response to perceived injustices in the world. We found consistent correlational evidence that the dispositional need for structure in everyday life is positively related to belief in God as a moral authority (Studies 1, 2, 3a, 3b, and 6), especially among those individuals who are more certain that God is infallible (Studies 3a and 3b). While divine morality was consistently related to the need for structure, beliefs about other possible moral authorities (parents, the U.S. Constitution) were not (Study 2). Using experimental manipulations (Studies 4a, 4b, and 5), we found that grounding morality in God can serve a compensatory function in the face of perceived injustice, such that believing that God is a moral authority increases upon exposure to injustice. This particular supernatural belief may restore impressions of structure and order in the world (Study 5). We discuss the implications of our findings for psychological theories of structure-seeking, how people cope with injustice, and religious and moral beliefs more broadly.

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