God Can Hear But Does He Have Ears? Dissociations Between Psychological and Physiological Dimensions of Anthropomorphism

Andrew ShtulmanOccidental College
Marjaana LindemanUniversity of Helsinki

Abstract

Anthropomorphism is a default strategy for making the unfamiliar familiar, but is it a uniform strategy? Do all dimensions of anthropomorphism “hang together”? We explored this question by involving adults (n = 99) in a speeded property-attribution task in which they decided, as quickly as possible, whether properties of two types— psychological and physiological—could be attributed to God. Participants not only attributed more psychological properties to God than physiological properties, but they were also faster, more consistent, and more confident in making those attributions. Participants showed the reverse pattern when denying properties to God. That is, they were slower, less consistent, and less confident in denying psychological properties to God than in denying physiological ones. These findings suggest that God is conceptualized, by default, as having a mind but not a body—a distinction that has important implications for the nature and origin of God concepts in particular and supernatural concepts in general.

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