Date Approved

7-15-2011

Date Posted

9-15-2011

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Alida Westman, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Carol Freedman-Doan, PhD

Committee Member

Steven Huprich, PhD

Committee Member

Howard Lerner, PhD

Abstract

Religions differ in their relative emphasis on beliefs and rituals. Christianity is a belief-oriented religion, but Christians differ in their orientation to beliefs. People with an Intrinsic orientation live by their beliefs, while those with an Extrinsic orientation use the religious group for other ends, such as networking. High “Questers” explore beliefs. Combinations of orientations were hypothesized to fall into patterns and be influenced by Openness to Experience (Five Factor Model; Costa & McCrae, 1992) and by identity styles (Berzonsky, 1989). People with an Informational identity style explore important ideas before accepting or rejecting them. Those with a Normative identity style accept important others’ ideas without exploration, and those with a Diffuse/Avoidant identity style avoid both exploration and commitment. Volunteers (N = 175) from undergraduate classes and religious groups completed measures of the orientations to religious beliefs, personality according to the Five Factor Model, identity styles, and demographic characteristics.

Two distinct patterns of the orientations to religious beliefs were found. One pattern was characterized by strong endorsement of the Intrinsic orientation, rejection of the Extrinsic orientation, and uncertainty about the Quest orientation. The second pattern was characterized by uncertainty toward all three orientations to religious beliefs. Openness and the Normative identity style each had a significant direct influence on the pattern into which participants were grouped, but these direct influences were no longer significant after controlling for age, religious preference, and marital status. The Informational identity style had a partial mediating effect on the relationship between Openness and the Quest orientation, and the Normative identity style had partial mediating effects on the relationship between Openness and the Intrinsic orientation and on the relationship between Openness and the Quest orientation.

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