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Religious Orientation Perspectives

Used in the psychology of religion, these approaches attempt to delineate the different motivations for the expression of religiosity.  Originally developed by Allport and Ross (1967), the effort was to distinguish internal motivation to be religious from the external or immediate benefits offered by participation in a religious community.  In other words, it seeks to distinguish between “religion that serves as its own end goal” and religion “used in the service of other goals or needs–i.e. as an instrumental value” (Gorsuch 1988: 210).

This research led to many future studies employing and refining the scale, most notably dividing the extrinsic dimension in two, as well as the development of metrics to assess different orientations such as Batson’s (1976) “quest” dimension.  Debates remain about whether some actions, such as attendance at worship service, are indicative of intrinsic or extrinsic religious motivation.


Allport, Gordon W. and J. Michael Ross.  1967.  “Personal Religious Orientation and Prejudice.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 5(4):423-443.

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

Donahue, Michael J.  1985.  “Extrinsic and Intrinsic Religiousness: Review and Meta-Analysis.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48:400-419.

Donahue, Michael J.  1985.  “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Religiousness: The Empirical Research.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 24(4):418-423.

Gorsuch, Richard L.  1988.  “Psychology of Religion.”  Annual Review of Psychology 39:201-221.

The following Concepts can potentially capture some of the ideas of this theory.
The tendency to follow a strong leader or rigid social conventions.  This is typically assessed through a high value on traditional conventions, a belief in an "objective" morality, and the belief that this morality should be publicly enforced and/or imposed on others.
Using religious participation and affiliation to achieve practical goals, such as social status.
"The psychologically healthy person is one who maintains close contact with reality" (Taylor and Brown 1988:193).  "The perception of reality is called mentally healthy when what the individual sees corresponds to what is actually there" (Jahoda 1958:6). Definitions of mental health, as well the best way to measure the concept, remain generally debatable.
The most influential conceptual study of mysticism remains William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience ([1901-2] 2010), which argues that there are unifying traits of different ecstatic experiences, which include: 1) ineffability (being beyond words); 2) noesis (perception of insight beyond rational intellect); 3) transiency (impermanence of such experiences); and 4) passivity (a sense of being controlled by a higher power).  Additional items added by later scholars include: 5) perception of the oneness of all things; 6) sense of timelessness; and 7) the perception that the individual self is not the “true I” (Happold 1963; see Hood and Francis 2013). Using this conceptual framework, Hood (1970, 1975) developed a psychometric battery of questions to assess different dimensions of religious (ecstatic) experiences, which was further divided into three different dimensions based on the work of Stace (1960), as well as empirical assessments with factor analysis (Hood, Morris, and Watson 1993).  The scale has been successfully replicated and validated across cultures and religious groups (Hood et al. 2001; Hood and Williamson 2000), as well as among those who are not actively participating in religious communities (see Hood 1976). Alternative scales operationalizing Happold’s (1963) dimensions have also been developed and validated (Francis and Louden 2001), including abbreviated versions (Francis and Louden 2004). Returning to James’ ideas, Hood (2016) has argued for the conceptual and empirical validity of the unity or “common core thesis” that similar aspects of emotion and perception undergird a wide array of ecstatic experiences across traditions, culture, and time.  Other scholars note that what makes an ecstatic experience “religious” is where (or what) the experiencer perceives as the source of the experience (Proudfoot 1985).  As a result, the apparent differences between “religious” and other types of ecstatic experiences, such as those deemed “paranormal,” “transcendent,” “psychedelic,” etc., are better understood as the product of cultural distinctions applied by religious institutions and individuals rather than inherent features of the experiences themselves (Baker, Bader, and Mencken 2016). References Baker, Joseph O., Christopher D. Bader, and F. Carson Mencken.  2016.  “A Bounded Affinity Theory of Religion and the Paranormal.”  Sociology of Religion 77(4): 334–58. Francis, Leslie J. and Stephen H. Louden.  2000.  “The Francis–Louden Mystical Orientation Scale (MOS): A Study Among Roman Catholic Priests.”  Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion 11: 99–116. Francis, Leslie J. and Stephen H. Louden.  2004.  “A Short Index of Mystical Orientation (SIMO): A Study Among Roman Catholic Priests.”  Pastoral Psychology 53(1): 49–51. Happold, F. C.  1963.  Mysticism: A Study and an Anthology.  London: Penguin. Hood, Ralph W., Jr.  1970.  “Religious Orientation and the Report of Religious Experience.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 9(4): 285–91. Hood, Ralph W., Jr.  1975.  “The Construction and Validation of a Measure of Reported Mystical Experience.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 14(1): 29–41. Hood, Ralph W., Jr. 1976.  “Mystical Experience as Related to Present and Anticipated Future Church Participation.”  Psychological Reports 39(3): 1127–36. Hood, Ralph W., Jr. 2016.  “The Common Core Thesis in the Study of Mysticism.”  Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion.  DOI: 0.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.241. Hood, Ralph W., Jr. and Leslie J. Francis.  2013.  “Mystical Experience: Conceptualizations, Measurement, and Correlates.”  Pp. 391–405 in APA Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality: Vol. 1. Context Theory and Research, edited Kenneth I. Pargament.  DOI: 10.1037/14045-021. Hood, Ralph W., Jr., Nima Ghorbani, P. J. Watson, Ahad F. Ghramaleki, Mark N. Bing, H. Kristl Davison, Ronald J. Morris, and W. Paul Williamson.  2001.  “Dimensions of the Mysticism Scale: Confirming the Three-Factor Structure in the United States and Iran.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 40(4): 691–705. Hood, Ralph W., Jr., Ronald J. Morris, and P. J. Watson.  1993.  “Further Factor Analysis of Hood’s Mysticism Scale.”  Psychological Reports 73: 1176–78. Hood, Ralph W., Jr. and W. Paul Williamson.  2000.  “An Empirical Test of the Unity Thesis: The Structure of Mystical Descriptors in Various Faith Samples.”  Journal of Christianity and Psychology 19: 222–244. James, William (1901-2) 2010.  The Varieties of Religious Experience.  Lexington, KY: Pacific Publishing. Proudfoot, Wayne.  1985.  Religious Experience.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Stace, W. T.  1960.  Mysticism and Philosophy.  Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.
Strict and frequent performance of the public rites of religious observance, even in the absence of fervent belief.  This would be measured by combining high scores on religious behavior with relatively low scores on belief.
The type and amount of religious actions an individual exhibits. Closely tied to the concept of religiosity, religious behavior focuses upon what individuals are doing in relation to religion specifically. The most commonly used measure of religious behavior is church or worship service attendance. Research shows that the act of attending alone exerts a powerful influence on individuals. Private forms of practice such as frequency of prayer or the reading of sacred scriptures are also important considerations.  Other forms of religious behavior that can be operationalized are contributions toward, and participation in religious activities or entities outside of worship. Self-reported religious experience can also be used as a measure of religious behavior. This measure is less well-known and as such, utilized less in research. View related items in the Measurement Wizard:
Strict and frequent performance of the public rites of religious observance, even in the absence of fervent belief.  This would be measured by combining high scores on religious behavior with relatively low scores on belief.
This refers to one's level of religious commitment. It is most commonly measured through self-report of various practices. Frequency of attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer, and reading sacred texts are all potential indicators of religiosity.  However, beliefs such as Biblical literalism can also be used as indicators of religiosity, but they are limited in their general application due to a tradition-specific relevance.  It is also worth noting that religious groups vary in the frequency with which they require certain types of practice.  Other potential measures, such as how much money a person gives to their place of worship, are occasionally used. View related items in the Measurement Wizard:

View related items in Measurement Wizard Scales:

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