An Examination of Religious Strivings Through the Lens of Evolutionary Psychology

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Religious strivings are mid-level personality units that reflect who a person is trying to become and what a person is trying to do. This study was designed to develop a nomothetic measure of religious strivings that would reflect the evolved psychological mechanisms that likely underlie religiousness. Building on Kirkpatrick’s (2005) theoretical work regarding the potential evolved psychological systems that underlie religiousness, the following hypotheses were proposed: (1) Spiritual strivings can be measured nomothetically in a valid and reliable manner, and (2) An evolutionary psychology model will be the best fit for the spiritual strivings data, with strivings falling into the following domains: attachment, coalition formation, status/power, social exchange/altruism, kinship, food acquisition, counterintuitive, and existential concerns. For scale development, data was collected using two samples of Christian participants (Sample 1, N = 416; Sample 2, N = 322). Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses produced an 11-item, 3-factor model representing attachment, status/coalition, and transcendence oriented strivings as the best fit for the data. Correlational analyses provided preliminary evidence for the validity of the three religious striving factors, though further research is needed to fully establish the validity of the measure. Findings revealed small to moderate effect sizes for the associations between the religious striving factors and trait-level measures of personality, religiosity, and spirituality. Thus, indicating that religious strivings are a distinct aspect of personality measurement and religiousness. Implications regarding the usefulness of applying an evolutionary psychology framework to the study of religiousness and religious striving are discussed.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Schnitker, Sarah A.

Document Type





Religiousness, Spirituality, Religious adherents, Identification, Evolutionary psychology




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