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86-304 -- Psychology of Religion
Fall, 1996
Dr. Susan H. McFadden
Clow Faculty #22

Course objectives: In this course, you will learn about how psychologists study a wide variety of religious phenomena using quantitative and qualitative approaches to research. You should gain an appreciation of the emerging interest in the empirical study of religion within the discipline of psychology. You will also develop and test your own questions about the psychology of religion by conducting research.

Class meetings: This class meets M-W-F from 1:50 until 2:50 in Dempsey 310. Plan to attend all classes. If you know you are going to have to miss a class, please let me know ahead of time. Attendance will be carefully monitored.

Office hours:

It is usually best to try to make an appointment, even for office hours because often many students are trying to see me then. If these hours are not convenient, please see me about making an appointment for another time. Messages can be left with the department secretary, Connie Bowman, whose number is 424-2300. Or, contact me via e-mail: mcfadden.


Academic dishonesty: The student handbook of the University describes policies and procedures regarding academic dishonesty. They will be followed in this course.

Course requirements:

1. Class attendance and reading assignments: This course will emphasize class discussion so if you are not here, you obviously cannot participate. The quality of the discussion will depend on students' preparation for each class. Therefore, be sure that you read the assignments as they are listed in this syllabus before coming to each class. If, at any time, it seems that students are coming to class unprepared, I reserve the right to administer highly challenging surprise quizzes! Moral of the story: be prepared!

2. Research project: We will devote a lot of class time to discussion of the research project you will complete for this course. This is will be a major piece of research and you will spend nearly the entire semester working on it. I expect that at least some of these projects will be presented at regional and national psychology meetings. There are also several undergraduate journals that publish research and the projects undertaken in this course should qualify for publication.

This research can involve observations, interviews, surveys, or experiments. APA policies regarding the ethical treatment of research participants will be followed. All students will obtain signed informed consent statements from their participants. If interviews are conducted, confidentiality will be maintained through the use of pseudonyms in the written paper.

You will be assigned to groups for conducting this research. Together, you will devise the research question(s), review the literature, devise the methodology, collect and analyze the data, and draw conclusions. With one exception, each group will hand in one paper only; all members of the group will receive the same grade.

The exception mentioned above applies to any students interested in writing their own spiritual autobiographies. I have developed a series of questions to be used for spiritual autobiography groups and they could be shaped for individual use. Because a very strongly emphasized theme in this course is the life span development of religious beliefs, behaviors, and experiences, any students wishing to write a spiritual autobiography will need not only to relate their own journeys but they also will have to examine their individual experience in light of theory and research on religious development. Students wishing to do this will write individual papers, but will work together with others doing the same thing to discuss how theories and research findings can be applied to individual life stories. In the conclusion to the paper, you will evaluate the spiritual autobiography process itself, including the support received from your group.

On 9/30, 10/23, and 11/11, each group will turn in a one page, typed progress report. The report on 10/23 should include copies of any interview protocols, surveys, or other materials to be used in conducting the research.

On 12/4 and 12/6, each group will make a 15 minute presentation to the class. These presentations should be done as if they were being given at a professional meeting. This means you should dress professionally and use audiovisual aids in presenting your work. Only one member of the group will actually give the presentation, but other members will sit in front of the class and be available to answer questions from the class.

Papers must use APA style. A copy of the APA style manual can be bought at the bookstore, borrowed from the library, or borrowed from any psychology major who has taken Experimental Psychology. Consult me if you have questions about APA style requirements.

Here is a very brief description of APA style.

The cover page will look like this, but with the "header" and page number (Prayer 1) lined up with the right margin:

Prayer 1


The relation between forms of prayer and God images

William J. Clinton

Robert Dole

Elizabeth Hanford

Hillary Rodham

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

The next page of your paper will be the Abstract. The page will be labeled as such and will contain a one paragraph summary of your research. In one sentence you'll tell what the issue is you're studying, followed by a sentence telling what you did. Then you'll tell what you found out and what it all means (i.e., is it similar to other findings on the subject).

On the following page (page 3), you'll put the full title of the paper and then will write an introduction to the problem in which you review the relevant literature and state the question you will be addressing in your research. Tell how your work is related to specific issues and findings in the psychology of religion and/or psychology in general.

After you write the introduction to the paper, you'll describe the method. This will include a description of your participants, any materials you used, and the design and procedure of your research. You'll also tell how you scored your data (did you count responses, time reaction time, add up answers on a questionnaire, etc.). In the next section, the results section, you describe what you found out. Often a table will help you to present your results. Finally, you end the paper with a discussion. Tell whether what you have learned from your data supports other findings. Also, describe limitations of your study and the type of research you recommend that would help to answer your question(s). Finally, you have a page of references. These will include the APA code of ethics which is on reserve in the library.

Your whole paper should be double-spaced, but to save space in the example below, I'll single-space.

This is the Title of your Paper

In this first section of your paper, introduce the topic. Tell what you're studying, what is already known about the phenomenon, and what you expect to find.



Tell who participated in your research. Give any important information about them (sex, age, etc.). Say that your participants were treated in accordance with the "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct" (American Psychological Association, 1992).


Tell what materials if any that you used, where you obtained them, any alterations you made, etc.

Design and Procedure

If you divided your participants into groups, tell how you did this (randomly?). What did you do and how did you do it?


How did you score your data? What did you count? If others wanted to do exactly what you did, they would need all the information you've now provided in the Method section.


What did you find out? Give a detailed summary of your results in this section. Sometimes tables and figures are helpful in presenting the results.


So what? Here's where you tell the significance of your research and how your findings relate to the findings of others. Tell the weaknesses of your work and how it could be improved.


American Psychological Association. (1992). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 47, 1597-1611.

ETC. -- your other references are listed in alphabetical order (and may therefore be listed before the APA)

3. Exams: All exams in this class are essay exams. Two will be take-home exams and two will be in-class exams. For all exams, you may use your books and notes. However, any evidence of plagiarism will result in a grade of F on the exam. Thus, if you quote, you must provide a citation in APA style. The exam questions will be asking you to think critically about what you have studied. Therefore, the majority of ideas should be yours. The take-home exams must be turned in on the date due and must be typed (word-processed). Permission to make up an in-class essay exam will be given only if requested 24 hours before the exam (e-mail is always available). Otherwise, a grade of F will be given. Take-home exams must be completed by individual students; any evidence of group effort on these exams will be considered an example of academic dishonesty.


4 exams @ 15% each: 60%
Research project (30% paper + 10% presentation): 40%


9/4 Introduction to the psychological study of religion

9/6 Themes of the course

9/9 Conceptualizing religion
9/11 Psychological processes and religion
9/13 Psychology of religion: History and theories
9/16 Philosophy of science and psychological research on religion
9/18 Approaches to research

9/20 Psychology of religion on the Internet
9/23 Discussion of research projects

9/25 Religion and spirituality in childhood

9/27 Cognitive influences on childhood religion
9/30 Religion in adolescence
10/2 Models of religious development
10/4 Religion in adulthood: What is an adult?
10/7 Metaphors of religious development
10/9 Religion, youth, and popular culture
10/11 Group discussion of research projects

10/14 Religion and higher education

10/16 Religion and aging: Do people become more religious as they grow older?
10/18 Religion and well-being in later life
10/21 EXAM

10/23 Conversion: types and processes

10/25 Cults and the anti-cult movement
10/28 The psychology of religious experience
10/30 Mysticism
11/1 Ways of being religious
11/4 Religious attitudes and prejudice
11/6 Influences of religiosity on social behavior
11/8 Religion as a way of coping
11/11 When people turn to religion; when they turn away
11/13 In the dust of our trials: The many faces of religion in coping
11/15 Religion and mental health
11/18 Group discussion of research projects

11/20 Religion and physical health

11/22 Gorsuch, R. L. (1995). Religious aspects of substance abuse and recovery. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 65-84.

11/25 Bottoms, B. L., Shaver, P. R., Goodman, G. S., & Qin, J. (1995). In the name of God: A profile of religion-related child abuse. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 85-112.

12/2 Jenkins, R. A. (1995). Religion and HIV: Implications for research and prevention. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 131-144.

12/4 Group presentations of research

12/6 Group presentations of research

12/9 The future of the psychology of religion: Practice issues

12/11 The future of the psychology of religion: Research issues
12/13 EXAM

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