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With God on our side: Religious primes reduce the envisioned physical formidability of a menacing adversary

  • Author(s): Holbrook, Colin
  • Fessler, Daniel M.T.
  • Pollack, Jeremy S.
  • et al.
Abstract

The imagined support of benevolent supernatural agents attenuates anxiety and risk

perception. Here, we extend these findings to judgments of the threat posed by a potentially violent adversary. Conceptual representations of bodily size and strength summarize factors that determine the relative threat posed by foes. The proximity of allies moderates the envisioned physical formidability of adversaries, suggesting that cues of access to supernatural allies will reduce the envisioned physical formidability of a threatening target. Across two studies, subtle cues of both supernatural and earthly social support reduced the envisioned physical formidability of a violent criminal. These manipulations had no effect on the perceived likelihood of encountering non-conflictual physical danger, raising the possibility that imagined supernatural support leads participants to view themselves not as shielded from encountering perilous situations, but as protected should perils arise.

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