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Religious orientation and psychological functioning were investigated in an analog study with 83 participants. After completing the Religious Orientation Scale (Allport & Ross, 1967), participants read a continuous narrative with three scenarios in which they first committed a dishonest act, and then felt compelled to confess what they had done. The final scenario contained a manipulation of grace or no-grace, in which half of the participants were forgiven for their act and half were not. Following each scenario, participants were tested for feelings of guilt and related behavioral and emotional responses. Intrinsically religious participants were more prone to guilt, more likely to confess their wrongdoing, and more likely to forgive themselves than extrinsically religious subjects. Guilt was found to have a mediating effect between intrinsic religiousness and some, but not all, outcome variables. The potentially beneficial consequences of guilt are discussed.


Originally published in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, 23, 190-197.

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