This project will promote the use of field experiments in the study of religion and spirituality.
Currently, researchers in these areas underutilize field experiments. To illustrate, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, a leading multidisciplinary religion journal, published over 900 articles from 1996-2015, and only two were based on true field experiments. The dearth of field experiments means that we know less than we would otherwise about the causal processes underlying religion and spirituality.
Field experiments directly test causality, and thus they offer a deeper understanding of the antecedents, consequences, contexts, and participants involved with religion and spirituality. They would also enable fruitful evaluation of existing religion and spirituality programs.
This project proposes four separate activities: (1) create a network of scholars who use field experiments to study religion and spirituality, (2) catalog the field experiments that have already been done, (3) conduct one field experiment (or more) as a demonstration study and produce training materials from it, and (4) administer a small-grant program to fund several field experiments.
Each activity has its own deliverables: A description of the research network, an online catalog, a submitted article, training materials, and copies of winning grant proposals.
This project has the potential to transform how we study religion and spirituality, and, by extension, how we understand it. This project will create opportunities, education, and incentives for researchers to use field experiments, and, if successful, this will result in more field experiments being done. As more are done, we will develop a deeper, truer understanding of the processes and practices of religion and spirituality.