We are not alone: The meaning motive, religiosity, and belief in extraterrestrial intelligence

Clay Routledge, Andrew A. Abeyta, Christina Roylance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


We tested the proposals that paranormal beliefs about extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) are motivated, in part, by the need for meaning and that this existential motive helps explain the inverse relationship between religiosity and ETI beliefs. In Study 1, we experimentally establish that the motive to find meaning in life increases ETI beliefs. In Study 2, we replicate previous research demonstrating that low religiosity is associated with greater ETI beliefs. In Studies 3–4 we tested and found support for a model linking low religiosity to low presence of meaning, high search for meaning, and greater ETI beliefs. In all, our findings offer a motivational account of why people endorse paranormal beliefs about intelligent alien beings observing and influencing the lives of humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


  • Atheism
  • Extraterrestrial intelligence
  • Meaning
  • Religiosity

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