Robin Hanson on the belief in religion and government

A stunning hypothesis from the latest Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

levels of support often observed for governmental and religious systems
can be explained, in part, as a means of coping with the threat posed
by chronically or situationally fluctuating levels of perceived
personal control. Three experiments demonstrated a causal relation
between lowered perceptions of personal control and … increased
beliefs in the existence of a controlling God and defense of the
overarching socio-political system.  A 4th experiment showed … a
challenge to the usefulness of external systems of control led to
increased illusory perceptions of personal control. … A
cross-national data set demonstrated that lower levels of personal
control are associated with higher support for governmental control.

seems we hope a stronger and more benevolent God or State will protect
us when feel less able to protect ourselves.  I’d guess similar effects
hold for medicine and media – we believe in doc effectiveness more when
we fear out of control of our health, and we believe in media accuracy
more when we rely more on their info to protect us.  Can we find data
on which beliefs tend to be more biased: confidence in authorities when
we feel out of control, or less confidence in authorities when we feel
more in control?

I would say "read the whole thing" except that is the whole thing.  Here is evidence from California that voters are more likely to prefer conservative candidates (not exactly what the above study is testing) when economic times are good.


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