Ray, Shanna D.; Lockman, Jennifer D.; Jones, Emily J.; Kelly, Melanie H.
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Sep 22 , 2014, No Pagination Specified. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0037884
When faced with negative life events, people often interpret the events by attributing them to the actions of God or Satan (Lupfer, Tolliver, & Jackson, 1996; Ritzema, 1979). To explore these attributions, we conducted a mixed-method study of Christians who were college freshmen. Participants read vignettes depicting a negative life event that had a beginning and an end that was systematically varied. Participants assigned a larger role to God in vignettes where an initially negative event (e.g., relationship breakup) led to a positive long-term outcome (e.g., meeting someone better) than with a negative (e.g., depression and loneliness) or unspecified long-term outcome. Participants attributed a lesser role to Satan when there was positive outcome rather than negative or unspecified outcome. Participants also provided their own narratives, recounting personal experiences that they attributed to the actions of God or Satan. Participant-supplied narratives often demonstrated “theories” about the actions of God, depicting God as being involved in negative events as a rescuer, comforter, or one who brings positive out of the negative. Satan-related narratives were often lacking in detail or a clear theory of how Satan worked. Participants who did provide this information depicted Satan as acting primarily through influencing one’s thoughts and/or using other people to encourage one’s negative behavior.
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