The Many Meanings of Religiousness: A Policy‐Capturing Approach

Kenneth I. Pargament, Mark S. Sullivan, William K. Balzer, Kimberly S. Van Haitsma, Patrick H. Raymark

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36 Scopus citations


ABSTRACT This article reports the results of two policy‐capturing studies that investigated individual differences in the meaning of religiousness. Policy capturing requires judges to respond to a large number of hypothetical scenarios or profiles that differ along a number of potentially relevant cues or attributes. Multiple regression analyses are then conducted to ascertain which cues are influencing each judge's responses. For both studies, 100 profiles were developed describing hypothetical individuals who differed on 10 cues thought to influence perceptions of religiousness (e.g., church attendance, doctrinal orthodoxy), and judges rated each profile on a 9‐point religiousness scale. Judges in Study 1 were 27 Roman Catholic and Protestant college students. Policy‐capturing analyses identified clear individual differences in the cues that afifected judgments of religiousness, and in the self‐insight of the students into their personal policies. To test whether these findings reflected the youth or religious maturity of the sample, the study was replicated with a sample of 22 Catholic and Protestant clergy. Similar results were found in Study 2. In both samples, individual policy capturing did a significantly better job of predicting judgments of religiousness than did self‐described policies or policies created by averaging across judges. Together these findings underscore the diversity of religious meanings and the need for further idiographic investigations in the psychology of religion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)953-983
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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