in Christian Perspective
Characteristics of the Religious Personality in College Students
John Brown University
Siloam Springs, Arkansas 72761
From: JASA 23 (March 1971): 12-16.
Prior research has shown that the religious individual is different from the general population along certain personality dimensions. This study was conducted to determine in what ways students at a religions college and a state university are similar and dissimilar. Subjects were chosen on the basis of student nominations from the two colleges. At the religious college twenty-five students were put into the category of above normal in personality and the same was done at the state university. After these groups were formed, the students at the religious college were compared with the students at the state university. These two college age groups were compared on the basis of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, the Child Development Scale, and the Personal Data Questionnaire. Some interesting questions are raised by this study.
One of the goals of society is to develop normal, well-adjusted, mature personalities. Perhaps everyone has a general conception of normality. Specifically, however, what are the characteristics of a normal person?
Different answers have been given to this question. For example, Allport listed three traits which he believes are possessed by all well-adjusted individuals: extension of the self, self-objectification resulting in a sense of humor, and a philosophy of life.1 Polatin and Philtine gave four characteristics of a normal personality: free of symptoms, unhampered by mental conflicts, satisfactory working capacity, and the ability to love someone else.2
Bonney made a study of the normal personality. The highly normal individuals he studied were characterized by: interpersonal attractiveness to other students as friends, forthrightness and honesty of communication with others, capacity for self-assertion and for aggressive response against efforts to dominate or reject them, and strong motivation to maintain selfautonomy and to actualize their potentials.3
Edward Shoben believes that the model of integrative adjustment is characterized by "self-control, personal responsibility, democratic social interest, and ideals.. ."4 Jourard,5 Scott,6 and Tindall7 also give descriptions of the normal personality.
Not all normal persons are alike. While they have some traits in common, they also vary tremendously. Individuals experience a process of socialization similar in many respects, but they also experience a process which is very unique. Socialization helps explain both convergent and divergent personality characteristics.
Learning theory says that socialization is a learn ing process. According to this theory, the type of personality an individual develops will be determined to a degree by the type of culture of which he is a part. Thus, normality may differ from one culture or society to another.8
Martin and Stendler state the problem involved in the formulation of a basic personality in a complex society. The goals of socialization are not concepts agreed upon.
It is difficult in a society as complex as ours to describe a set of goals of socialization which are ac cepted by all segments of the population num ber of social scientists have considered the question of "the American character," or basic personality. On the basis of these studies, we can make some tentative statements about the kind of adult the American child is expected to become. These goals of socialization apply, of course, only to a "typical" American. In kind, degree, and number, goals vary from person to person, from group to group. We cannot assume that any particular adult, or any particular sub-group of adults, accepts these goals, or that all who accept them do so to the same degree and define the behavior that satisfies them in the same way.9
THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
The nature of the problem to he dealt with in this present study involves the religious personality. Specifically it involves the question as to the personality similarities and differences of students from a religious college and students from a state college.
The problem was first suggested by Merl E. Bonney who did a descriptive study of the normal personality.10 In his study he selected a group of highly normal individuals. In this present study a similar procedure was followed. A group of highly normal individuals was selected from a religious college and compared with their corresponding group from a state college.
The comparisons were made on the basis of certain measurements. In this way, the personality differences and similarities emerged between these select groups. On the basis of prior research it is evident that the religious individual varies from the general population along certain personality dimensions. A general survey of this research will now be given in order to supply this present study with some perspective.
Prior research has shown the religious person to differ from the non-religious. Gregory, in his research, demonstrated that the religious personality rated high on the California F Scale for Authoritarianism.11 In another study it was shown that high authoritarians exhibited fear, suspicion, and moralistic condemnation of strangers. Meanwhile, they glorified their own virtue and ability.12
Bateman and Jensen have concluded that persons with extensive religious training tend to express less anger toward the environment and are more apt to turn it upon themselves,13 Cattell and Stice found priests to he more simple and unpretentious than sophisticated and polished, more confident and selfsecure than timid and insecure, more conservative than radical.14 Symington has concluded that religious beliefs are negatively correlated with intelligence.15
A questionnaire designed to measure prejudice toward Catholics, Protestants, and Jews was given to 125 under-graduates. Half of them belonged to religious clubs. The results showed that students who belonged to religious clubs were more anti-Semitic than students who did not belong to such clubs.16
Prior research has shown that the religious individual is more conforming, ego
defensive, rigid, prejudiced, suspicious, and generally pessimistic.
Sunday School attendance and religious affiliation have not been found to be significant factors in predicting social acceptability. Caves found that socometric data obtained from the six grades of an elementary school failed to differentiate the Sunday School student from the absentee.17 Bonney found that in twelve elementary school classes and among 1100 students at a state university, church affiliation was not correlated with social acceptability. His conclusion:
Until contrary evidence is available, teachers and counselors had best assume that all of our major religious organizations, in spite of their differences in doctrine and practice, are turning out very much the same caliber of people in so far as this caliber is measured by desirability as associates by age-mates in school.18
Dreger found the religious persons he studied were conforming and ego defensive while the nonreligious persons were more independent.19 Martin and Nichols gave this summary of their findings concerning the religious person:
In general, then, we receive a generally negative picture of the religious believer. He is a conventional, conforming person to whom being socially acceptable
means a great deal. He is rigid, prejudiced, unintelligent,
suspicious, and generally
pessimistic. Surprisingly, the religious men seem to be more masculine than the
SELECTION OF SUBJECTS
The subjects for this present study were selected from the student bodies at a southwestern state university and a religious college. The state university is a state supported school of approximately 10,000 students. It has an extensive undergraduate program of studies and graduate divisions in some departments.
The religious college is a private religious school of approximately 200 students, It is strictly an undergraduate institution, denominationally unaffiliated, and fundamentalist in doctrine. At the state university the subjects were selected from students in psychology classes on the sophomore, junior, and senior levels. The students were not necessarily psychology majors. At the religious college the subjects were selected from students who were taking at least twelve credit hours regardless of classification.
The procedure for selecting the subjects for this study was the same in both schools. It consisted of the procedure suggested by Bonney21 in which students rate their classmates. At both schools a list of the students from which the subjects were to he selected was prepared. Each student was given a copy of this list along with a sheet of instructions and a rating scale.
The students were asked to rate on the rating scale those students whom they knew fairly well. They were to rate them as to their normality on the basis of the criterion given in the instruction sheet. The instruction sheet mentioned five general characteristics of the normal personality. For example, a person with high psychological health is one who (a) typically is energetic and characterized by feelings of well-being or happiness, (b) typically makes friends easily, enjoys the company of others, and is well liked by most others, (e) typically has goals and works efficiently toward achieving those goals, (d) typically is not unduly critical of others nor of self, and (e) typically guides his or her behavior by sound judgment, is able to make constructive decisions and to act upon these decisions.
A student's final standing was determined by calculating the frequency of his above normal and below normal ratings and then subtracting them. From the data obtained in the rating procedure twenty-five above normal individuals were selected from each school. These groupings composed the upper twelve percent of the tested population at the state university and the upper thirty percent of the tested population at the religious college. The twenty-five students who were considered above average in normality were those who received the most student nominations.
Instruments of Measurement
The following three instruments of measurements were used: (a) the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire; (b) the Child Development Scale; and (c) the Personal Data Questionnaire.
The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16 P.F.Q.) was developed by Raymond B. Cattell and Glen F. Stice. It consists of 187 questions (Form B) to which the testee responds. According to the handbook which explains the questionnaire:
The 16 P.F. is the psychologist's answer, in the ques tionnaire realm, to the demand for a test giving fullest information in the shortest time about most personality traits. It is not merely concerned with some narrow concept of neuroticism or "adjustment," or some special kind of ability, but sets out to cover planfnlly and precisely all the main dimensions along which people can differ, according to basic factor analytic research. The present questionnaire meets a long-standing demand.22
The Child Development Scale consists of thirty items taken from the
Survey devised by E. J. Shoben, Jr.23 The original scale contained eighty-five
items, seventy-five of which were arranged into three subscales: the Dominating
Scale, the Possessive Scale, and the Ignoring Scale.
The thirty items of the abridged scale used in the present study contained an equal number of dominating, possessive and ignoring items. The subject was asked to rate each item of the Child Development Scale on a five point scale ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree."
The Personal Data Questionnaire was constructed by Merl E. Bonney. It contains questions of a personal nature about the subject. The information provided in this questionnaire was used to shed further information on the subjects of this present study.
RESULTS WITH CATTELL'S 16 P.F.Q.
Cattell's 16 P.F.Q. contains the following sixteen factors which are scored along a ten point scale from one extreme to the other:
Less Intelligent-More Intelligent
Affected by Feelings-Emotionally Stable
*Humble-Assertive 'Sober-Happy Go Lucky
Tough Minded-Tender Minded
Group Dependent-Self Sufficient
The highly normal students from the two colleges when compared on the 16 P.F.Q. showed a reliable difference on the above traits preceded by an asterisk. On the other ten traits there was no significant differ. (Significant differences are reckoned from the .05 level of significance.)
Cattell and Stice discuss in detail the sixteen factors measured by the 16 P.F.Q. The following explanation of these factors will be taken entirely from the Handbook for the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire.22 Only those six traits which showed a significant difference will be discussed.
The state university students were more outgoing while the religious college students were more reserved. The outgoing person is typically good natured, easy going, ready to cooperate, attentive to people, softhearted, kindly, trustful, adaptable, warmhearted, and sociable. Reserved people tend to be grasping, critical, obstructive, cool, aloof, hard, precise, suspicious, rigid, and cold.
In the humble-assertive factor, the religious college students were more humble while the state university students were more assertive. This factor is the well-known one of dominance which has been investigated by Masiow, Allport, and others. The humble person is submissive, dependent, kindly, expressive, conventional, easily upset, self-sufficient and mild. The assertive person is aggressive, competitive, independent minded, self-assured, hard, stern, solemn, unconventional, tough, attention getting and dominant. Whether this factor is the same as the Christian virtue of humility may be questioned. However, if it is, perhaps this explains why the religious students were more humble than the secular ones.
The religious college students were more sober while the state university students were more happygo-lucky. The happy-go-lucky person is enthusiastic, talkative, cheerful, serene, frank, expressive, quick and alert. The sober person is glum, serious, silent, introspective, depressed, concerned, brooding, incommunicative, smug, languid, and slow. Happy-go-lucky individuals have generally had an easier, less punishing, more optimism-creating environment, or they have a more happy-go-lucky attitude through less exacting aspirations. In the latter case it might be expected that a religiously directed student would he more sober than a non-religious person due to more exacting religious aspirations.
The expedient-conscientious factor is characterized most by energy and persistence. The religious college students were more conscientious while the state college students were more expedient. To be conscientious is to he persevering, determined, responsible, emotionally mature, consistently ordered, attentive to people, persistent, and to have character or superego strength. To be expedient is to lack rigid internal standards, to be casual, undependable, quitting, fickle, frivolous, demanding, impatient, relaxed, indolent, and obstructive. On the whole it would seem that this factor best depicts the regard for moral standards, the tendency to drive the ego and to restrain the id, which are most frequently regarded as marks of the superego. It is well known that religious people are super-ego controlled. It might be expected that the religious college students would be more conscientious than the state university students.
The state university students were more experimenting while the religious college students were more conservative. Experimenting persons tend to be radical, well-informed, inclined to experiment with problem solutions, and less inclined to moralize. The conservative theological position of the religious college students might serve as a basis for expecting them to lean toward conservative trends. Priests have been shown to be more conservative and, if generalization is possible, the religious student might be expected to be conservative.
The state university students were more casual while the religious college students were more controlled. The casual person is uncontrolled, lax, and has pour self-sentiment formation. The controlled person is strung in will-power and has self-sentiment formation. The controlled person shows socially approved character responses, self control, persistence, foresight, considerateness of others, and conscientiousness. It might be expected that the religious student would be more controlled in his attitude since religion provides standards, mores and external regulations.
RESULTS WITH THE CHILD DEVELOPMENT SCALE
The Child Development Scale consists of thirty statements to which the student responds. It has ten statements for each of the three dimensions in the scale. These three dimensions are: possessive, dominating, and ignoring. The Child Development Scale revealed significant differences between the students of the two colleges.
The religious college students were more possessive, dominating and ignoring than the state university students. On the Child Development Scale a possessive student would agree with an item like "Babies are more fun for their parents than older children." A student scoring high on the dominating scale would agree with such statements as "It is wicked for a child to disobey his parents" or "A child should always believe what his parents tell him." A sample item in the ignoring category is "Children should not interrupt adult conversation."
A religious person adheres to a more structured life than a non-religious person since he has an external standard to which to relate. It is a very authoritative standard. It is not surprising that this frame of reference would tend to influence his attitudes about child rearing.
Religious College Students
State University Students
More possessive Less possessive
More dominating Less dominating
More ignoring Less ignoring
RESULTS WITH THE PERSONAL DATA QUESTIONNAIRE
The Personal Data Questionnaire revealed supplementary information about the two populations. Part of the information obtained from the questionnaire will be discussed here.
The state university students comprised nine males and sixteen females. At the religious college the students were made up of ten males and fifteen females. Six of the state university students and five of the religious college students were married. The state uni versity students came from families with an average of 2.64 children; the religious college students came from families with an average of 3.2 children. Only one state university student had divorced parents while three religious college students' parents were divorced.
In reference to the person most admired, looked-up-to or emulated in some way, more religious college students listed a minister. This would be expected since religious students would more likely identify with a religious figure. More state university students listed a college teacher, but this was not statistically significant.
Surprisingly, more state university students attended religious services regularly while growing up than did the religious college students. The comparison was twenty-two to twenty-one. Nineteen religious college students considered the desire to please parents highly motivating while fifteen state university students did. These differences were not statistically significant.
Significant differences were found in two aspects of motivation. Twenty-one religious college students were highly motivated to serve others while 13 state university students said that they were. This would be in keeping with the humanitarian aspects of religion. Also, 25 religious college students, compared to eight state university students, were highly motivated to live up to their religion.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Prior research has shown that the religious individual is different from the general population along certain personality dimensions. The religious person is more conforming, ego defensive, rigid, prejudiced, suspicious, and generally pessimistic.
This study was conducted to determine in what ways students at a religious college and a state university are similar and dissimilar. In order to answer this question students were chosen on the basis of student nominations from the two colleges. At the religious college twenty-five students were put into the category of above normal in personality and the same was done at the state university. After these groups were formed, the above normal students at the religious college were compared with the above normal students at the state university.
On the basis of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionaire, the religious college students were more reserved, humble, sober, conscientious, conservative, and controlled. The state university students were more outgoing, assertive, happy-go-lucky, expedient, experimenting, and casual.
In reference to the Child Development Scale the religious college students were more dominating, possessive, and ignoring than the state university students.
The Personal Data Questionnaire revealed that religious college students to a greater degree than state university students admired a minister and that religious teaching was a very important motivation in their lives. Significantly more religious college students than state university students felt the desire to perform some service to help others was highly motivating.
It would he a mistake perhaps to generalize the results of this study to all religious college and state college students. However, some interesting questions are raised by this study. Do students go to a religious school because they have certain personality traits or do they acquire them as the result of their affiliation with the religious school? Perhaps both possibilities are true to a degree. Another question to ponder is whether a religious person attending a state university would differ significantly from students at a religious school.
A very crucial question is whether the religious students studied in the present research have the traits which will enable them to function efficiently in the vocation to which they feel called. Is the type of religious student pictured in this study the type individual who is best equipped to handle the discipline of religious work?
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2Polatin, Phillip and Philtine, Ellen C., The Well-Adjusted Personality, New York, J. B. Lippincott Company, 1952, p. 14.
3Bonney, Men E., "A Descriptive Study of the Normal Personality," Journal of Clinical Psychology, XVII (July,
4Shoben, Edward J., "Toward a Concept of the Normal Personality," edited by Leon Gorlow and Walter Katvosky, Readings in the Psychology of Adjustment, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1959, p. 135.
5Jourard, Sidney M., Personal Adjustment, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1958.
6Seott, William Abbott, "Definitions of Mental Health and Illness," edited by Leon Gorlow and Walter Katvosky, Readings in the Psychology of Adjustment, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1959.
7Tindall, Ralph H., "Relationships Among Measures of Adjustment." edited by Leon Gorlow and Walter Katvnsky, Readings in the Psychology of Adjustment, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1959.
8Barnouw, Victor, Culture and Personality, Homewnod, Illinois, 1963.
9Martin, William E. and Stendler, Celia Burns, Child Behavior and Development, New York, Harcourt, Brace and World, 1959, p. 176.
10Bonncy, op. cit.
11Gregory, E. W. "The Orthodoxy of the Authoritarian Personality," The Journal of Social Psychology, XLV (1957), pp. 217-232.
12DeSnto, Clinton, Kuethe, James and Wunderlirh, Richard, "Social Perception and Self-Perception of High and Low Authoritariaos," The Journal of Social Psychology, LII (1960), 1.
13Bateman, Mildred M. and Jensen, Joseph S., "The Effect of Religious Background on Modes of Handling Anger," The Journal of Social Psychology, XLVII (1958), 133-141.
14Cattell, Raymond B. and Stice, Glen F., Handbook for the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, Chicago, the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, 1957, p. 17.
15Symingtoo, T. A., Religious Liberals and Conservatives, New York, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1935.
16Blum, Barbara, and Mann, John H., "The Effect of Religions Membership on Religious Prejudice," The Journal of Social Psychology, LII (1960), 97-101.
I7Caves, J. W., "A Study to Show the Relations of Peer Acceptance and Teacher Ratings with Sunday School Attendance and Church Affiliation," unpublished master's thesis, Department of Psychology, North Texas State University, Dentoo, Texas, 1948.
18Bouney, Merle E., Mental Health in Education, Boston, Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1960, p. 376.
19Dreger, R. M., "Some Personality Correlates of Religious Attitudes as Determined by Projective Techniques," "Psychological Monographs, LXVI 1952, No. 3.
20Martin, Carol and Nichols, Robert C., "Personality and Re ligious Beliefs," The Journal of Social Psychology, LXI (1962), 3-8.
21Bonucy, op. cit., pp. 257-258.
22Cattell, Raymond B., and Stiee, Glen F., Handbook for the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, Chicago, The Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, 1957.
23Shobeu, E. J. "The Assessment of Parental Attitudes in Rela tion to Child Adjustment." Genetic Psychology Monographs, XXXIX (1949), 103-149.