We’ve seen at least 50 headlines about this story, so we’ll give you the information from PhysOrg. Their headline is Researchers ask Americans ‘What does God look like?’ Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
A team of psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have used a new technique to construct what a large sample of 511 American Christians think God looks like. Participants in the study saw hundreds of randomly varying face-pairs and selected which face from each pair appeared more like how they imagined God to appear. By combining all the selected faces, the researchers could assemble a composite “face of God” that reflected how each person imagined God to appear.
Truly, this is valuable research! PhysOrg says:
Their results were both surprising and revealing. From Michelangelo to Monty Python, Illustrations of God have nearly always shown him as an old and august white-bearded Caucasian man. But the researchers found that many Christians saw God as younger, more feminine, and less Caucasian that popular culture suggests.
To quote Mr. Spock: Fascinating! They tell us:
In fact, people’s perceptions of God tended to rely partly on their political affiliation. [Huh?] Liberals tended to see God as more feminine, younger, and more loving than conservatives. Conservatives also saw God as more Caucasian and more powerful than liberals.
Liberals have a nice god, but the god of conservatives is grumpy. This is great social science! PhysOrg continues:
“These biases might have stemmed from the type of societies that liberals and conservatives want,” suggested Joshua Conrad Jackson, the study’s lead author. “Past research shows that conservatives are more motivated than liberals to live in a well-ordered society, one that would be best regulated by a powerful God. On the other hand, liberals are more motivated to live in a tolerant society, which would be better regulated by a loving God.”
This is so sweet! Let’s read on:
People’s perceptions also related to their own demographic characteristics. Younger people believed in a younger-looking God. People who reported being more physically attractive also believed in a more physically attractive God. And African Americans believed in a God that looked more African American than did Caucasians.
Here’s the researchers’ explanation for that:
“People’s tendency to believe in a God that looks like them is consistent with an egocentric bias,” said Professor Kurt Gray, the study’s senior author and a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. “People often project their beliefs and traits onto others, and our study shows that God’s appearance is no different — people believe in a God who not only thinks like them, but also looks like them.“
And this is the end
Interestingly, however, people did not show an egocentric bias on the basis of gender. Men and women believed in an equally masculine-looking God.
Here’s a link to the published paper in PLOS ONE: The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics. You can read it online without a subscription. They have several pictures that resulted from the study. We tried to copy one to put above our post, but we couldn’t. That’s okay, it may be subject to copyright.
Well, dear reader, how do you visualize Yahweh — a burning bush, a Zeus-like figure, or maybe King Kong?
Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.