Differentiating Personified, Supernatural, and Abstract Views of God Across Three Cognitive Domains

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3 Scopus citations


Social scientists have greatly advanced our understanding of how people think and feel about God as a person-like, supernatural being. However, there has been insufficient research and theory investigating abstract God representations. Furthermore, previous research has assessed beliefs about God with descriptors generated by the researchers. We collected qualitative data from 1,030 participants in the U.S. who provided free-response descriptions of how they visualize God. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, we developed a coding scheme that fit well with an integrative, two-dimensional, conceptual framework of God-views. We found evidence that people draw from different cognitive domains (folk-physics, -biology, and –psychology; Dimension 1) to visualize God as personified (20.8%), supernatural (34.0%), or abstract (21.6%; Dimension 2). Some participants provided both supernatural and abstract (multiple God-view) descriptions (16.8%); others had no view of God (6.9%). The God-view groups differed significantly on an array of quantitative measures of God representations and religiosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • God concepts
  • God images
  • God representations
  • God-views
  • Mixed methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Religious studies
  • Applied Psychology


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