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Religious Quest

Psychologist Daniel Batson is most responsible for conceptualizing an orientation toward religion that emphasizes “questing” (Batson, Becker, and Clark 1973).  Building on the positive psychology of Maslow (1964), Batson (1976) initially operationalized the concept as a nine-item measurement scale, which was later revised into a twelve-item scale of Quest orientation that incorporates three aspects: 1) the ability to address existential questions without reducing their complexity; 2) perceiving religious doubt as positive; and 3) openness to changes in religious beliefs (Batson and Schoenrade 1991a, 1991b).

People who are high in Quest orientation are aware of and at peace with the fact that they do not and probably will never know the truth about religious matters.  Quest orientation correlates positively with measures of religious conflict and religious doubt (INSERT LINK), but is also conceptually and empirically distinct (Batson and Schoenrade 1991a).  Questing is negatively associated with prejudice, religious fundamentalism, and right-wing authoritarianism (Altemeyer and Hunsburger 1992; Hunsgerger 1995).  Quest is also positively related to altruism and prosocial motivations (Preston, Ritter, and Hernandez 2010), with the exception of being less likely to help those perceived as intolerant (Batson et al. 2001; Messay, Dixon, and Rye 2012).

Although negatively related to measures of religious orthodoxy, some studies have also shown that secular individuals are less likely to complete the battery, suggesting the need for measurement (and perhaps conceptual) amendments when studying non-theists (Maltby and Day 1998).


Altemeyer, Bob and Bruce Hunsberger.  1992.  “Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, Quest, and Prejudice.”  The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 2(2): 113–33.

Batson, C. Daniel.  1976.  “Religion as Prosocial: Agent or Double Agent?”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 15(1): 29-45.

Batson, C. Daniel, J. Christiaan Becker, and W. Malcolm Clark.  1973.  Commitment without Ideology.  Philadelphia, PA: Pilgrim Press.

Batson, C. Daniel, Scott H. Eidelman, Seanna L. Higley, and Sarah A. Russell.  2001.  “’And Who Is My Neighbor?’ II: Quest Religion as a Source of Universal Compassion.  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 40(1): 39–50

Batson, C. Daniel and Patricia A. Schoenrade  1991a.  “Measuring Religion as Quest: 1) Validity Concerns.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30(4): 416–29.

Batson, C. Daniel and Patricia A. Schoenrade.  1991b.  “Measuring Religion as Quest: 2) Reliability Concerns.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 30(4): 430–47.

Hunsberger, Bruce.  1995.  “Religion and Prejudice: The Role of Religious Fundamentalism, Quest, and Right-Wing Authoritarianism.”  Journal of Social Issues 51(2): 113–29.

Maltby, John and Liza Day.  Amending a Measure of the Quest Religious Orientation: Applicability of the Scale’s Use among Religious and Non-religious persons.”  Personality and Individual Differences 25(3): 517–22.

Maslow, Abraham. 1964.  Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press.

Messay, Berhane, Lee J. Dixon, and Mark S. Rye.  2012.  “The Relationship Between Quest Religious Orientation, Forgiveness, and Mental Health.”  Mental Health, Religion, & Culture 15(3): 315–33.

Preston, Jesse L., Ryan S. Ritter, and J. Ivan Hernandez.  2010.  Principles of Religious Prosociality: A Review and Reformulation.  Social and Personality Psychology Compass 4(8): 574–90.

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