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Attribution Theory and the Psychology of Religion

Wayne Proudfoot and Phillip Shaver
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Vol. 14, No. 4 (Dec., 1975), pp. 317-330
DOI: 10.2307/1384404
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1384404
Page Count: 14
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Attribution Theory and the Psychology of Religion
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Abstract

Recent anthropological and sociological studies have emphasized the cognitive functions of religion, but few have drawn on relevant work by cognitive social psychologists. One current social psychological approach, attribution theory, is especially promising for the study of religion because it deals directly with individuals' interpretations of their own experiences and behavior. Three lines of attribution research are reviewed and each is shown to be useful for understanding certain religious phenomena. A classic conversion experience discussed by William James, the experiences of the apostles at Pentecost, an experimental study of mystical experience, and several examples from an American Nichiren Shoshu group are considered in the light of attribution theory. Possibilities for experimental research are briefly considered.

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