One of the ultimate mysteries humans face is the question of whether some other world or dimension exists beyond the natural world—a domain of the supernatural. Worldwide, many people believe that supernatural entities exist & are active in the natural world. Some are typically seen as personal (deities, devils, angels, ghosts or spirits), while others are impersonal (karma, fate, destiny, luck). Supernatural attribution (SA) occurs when a person interprets an event (a situation, action, or thought) as being caused by a supernatural entity. Despite great popular interest in the supernatural, along with the potential for SA to affect beliefs about ultimate meaning & reality, the psychological literature on SA would benefit from further integration. The central aim of this project is to strengthen the conceptual & empirical foundation for the study of SA, broadly defined. We will look for common threads in SA-related beliefs & experiences, including those common within mainstream U.S. religion & those typically associated with other faith traditions or paranormal belief. Our major aim is to identify major psychological reasons why people engage in SA as well as the consequences of SA for people’s lives. The proposed project would contribute a large set of innovative studies by an experienced team. Research outputs would include large correlational & longitudinal studies from broad samples, studies of special groups (e.g., nonbelievers, spiritual directors, those reporting intense SA experiences), international studies, & experiments. Written outputs would include many empirical manuscripts & conference presentations, along with an integrative review paper & press releases. A research conference will foster discussion, innovation & collaboration. Learning more about SA predictors & outcomes should help people to reflect on their own beliefs about the supernatural & to better understand the beliefs of others--especially those from different cultures or belief systems.
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