When God's (not) needed: Spotlight on how belief in divine control influences goal commitment


  • Khenfer Jamel
  • Roux Elyette
  • Tafani Eric
  • Kristin Laurin


  • Religion
  • Religious belief
  • Control threat
  • Self-efficacy
  • Goal commitment
  • Belief in contingencies

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People regularly set goals, but often fail to remain committed to them. In particular, people's commitment to their goals flags when their self-efficacy is low—when they doubt their ability to bring about their desired outcomes through their actions. We propose that when people feel low self-efficacy, reminders of external forces that ensure contingency in the world can help them restore their goal commitment. Moreover, we propose that one such external force is a powerful, interventionist God, and thus that reminders of a powerful God can help restore people's goal commitment when they feel low self-efficacy. In Study 1, we manipulated self-efficacy and measured religiosity. More religious people were more committed to their goals—a facilitating effect—but only when we had first made them feel low self-efficacy. In Study 2, we manipulated both self-efficacy and the salience of religious belief in a controlling vs. creating God. When we reminded participants of their beliefs in a controlling God, we again observed a facilitating effect when we also made them feel low in self-efficacy. Their beliefs in a creating God, in contrast, had no effect. In Study 3, we used a different experimental paradigm, and found additional support for the facilitating effect at low self-efficacy while providing evidence of mechanism. © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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