An existential function of evil: The effects of religiosity and compromised meaning on belief in magical evil forces

Clay Routledge, Andrew A. Abeyta, Christina Roylance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

In three studies, we tested the assertion that the need for meaning motivates belief in magical evil forces. Believing that there are magical evil forces at work in the world, though unpleasant, may contribute to perceptions of meaning in life as the existence of such forces supports a broader meaning-providing religious worldview. We assessed religiosity, measured (Study 1) or manipulated (Study 2) perceptions of meaning, and assessed the extent to which participants attributed a murderer’s actions to magical evil causes (e.g., having a dark soul). Low levels of perceived meaning or experimentally threatened meaning were associated with a greater tendency to make magical evil attributions, but only among individuals reporting high levels of religiosity. In Study 3, we assessed religiosity, experimentally threatened perceptions of meaning, and measured general belief in magical evil forces. Meaning threat increased belief in magical evil, but only among those reporting high levels of religiosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-688
Number of pages8
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Volume40
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Keywords

  • Evil
  • Magical beliefs
  • Meaning
  • Religiosity

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