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Security in the welfare state: Attachment, religion and secularity
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Personality, Social and Developmental Psychology.
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Because of the industrial revolution some 200 years ago, a growing part of the western world’s population started moving to cities and away from traditional sources of security, like families or local communities. Consequently, social security, such as aid for the sick and elderly, came to be organized through the public domain, giving rise to the welfare states. Today, in countries with more expansive welfare states people less readily turn to another source of security: religion. Thus, welfare states and religion may function as alternative, even competing, sources of security. The aim of the present thesis is to scrutinize whether people use the welfare state as a source of psychological security (the perceived freedom from worry or care) in a similar way as religious people may use their relationship with God. This is done through the framework of attachment theory and how believers’ relationship with God has been understood as an attachment relationship. Another aim is to explore whether people’s attachment-related mental models are linked to trust in welfare state institutions. The thesis includes two empirical studies, using experimental (Study 1) or correlational (Study 3) designs, and performed in two different contexts: Sweden (comprising an expansive welfare state but lower degrees of religiosity) and the US (comprising a smaller welfare state but higher degrees of religiosity). The thesis also includes a conceptual discussion of attachment relationships and figures (Study 2).

Study 1 tests whether people’s attention is directed towards the welfare state or God after exposure to threat primes, and if people report a greater willingness to take exploratory risks after being reminded of the welfare state or God. In neither Sweden nor the US did the welfare state function as a source of security in the hypothesized ways. Neither did God, in contrast to previous studies using the same methodology. These failed replications are possibly due to contextual differences between previous studies (conducted in Israel) and the present ones, such as differences in sensitivity to threats. In Study 2, the conceptual boundaries of the constituents of attachment relationships in relation to non-human objects are discussed. Based on Wittgenstein’s notion of “fuzzy boundaries” for categories, the importance of displaying resemblance with human attachments and of enabling the formation of a personal relationship is emphasized. God is argued to display these characteristics, but not the welfare state. Study 3 tests whether attachment orientations (in terms of avoidance and anxiety) are related to trust in welfare state institutions. In both Sweden and the US, attachment-related avoidance was related to lower trust in welfare state institutions, and this link was statistically mediated by low trust in other people. Avoidance may hence predispose for reluctance to seek comfort/support from other people as well as from societal institutions such as the welfare state.

In conclusion, although the security that the welfare state provides makes people less prone to turn to religion for security, people do not appear to use the welfare state as a source of psychological security in the same way as religious people may use their relationship with God. Also, people’s attachment (in-)security, more specifically avoidance, may influence not only behavior and attitudes in close relationships but also in relation to societal institutions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University , 2021. , p. 109
Keywords [en]
Attachment theory, Welfare State, Religion, Secularity, Security, Social trust, Political trust
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-192638ISBN: 978-91-7911-516-6 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7911-517-3 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-192638DiVA, id: diva2:1547447
Public defence
2021-06-15, online via Zoom, public link is available at the department website, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2021-05-21 Created: 2021-04-26 Last updated: 2022-02-25Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Religion vs. the Welfare State-The Importance of Cultural Context for Religious Schematicity and Priming
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Religion vs. the Welfare State-The Importance of Cultural Context for Religious Schematicity and Priming
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2018 (English)In: Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, ISSN 1941-1022, E-ISSN 1943-1562, Vol. 10, no 3, p. 276-287Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Prior research, using correlational and self-report methodologies, suggests that religion and public welfare function as alternate security/insurance systems. Consequently, in countries with more expansive public welfare systems people report less religiosity. The present studies expand this field by utilizing experimental methodology and by replicating and extending two previous experiments in both a secular/welfare state context (Sweden) and a religious/nonwelfare state context (the United States). In the first set of experiments, we tested if cognitive access to religious and welfare-related mental schemas differ depending on context. We also tested whether previous findings indicating that people cognitively turn to religion when exposed to threat replicate and extend to the welfare system. In the second set of experiments, we tested whether religious and welfare reminders lead to increased risk taking in these contexts. Our findings show that participants in the secular/welfare state context had lower cognitive access to religious schemas and were less willing to take risks after religious reminders. However, our findings did not replicate those from previous studies: our participants did not have increased cognitive access to religion, nor public welfare, after threat primes. Similarly, our participants were generally not more prone to risk taking after reminders of religion (or public welfare), although such an effect was obtained specifically on high-religious participants. We conclude that cultural context is important to consider when studying psychological functions of religion, and we suggest that the failed replications may be due to cultural, contextual factors. Finally, religious reminders may have contradictory influences on risk taking.

Keywords
religion, public welfare, secularity, attachment, cross-cultural
National Category
Psychology Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-159012 (URN)10.1037/rel0000200 (DOI)000440009400008 ()
Available from: 2018-09-10 Created: 2018-09-10 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
2. The Place of Place within the Attachment-Religion Framework: A Commentary on the Circle of Place Spirituality
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Place of Place within the Attachment-Religion Framework: A Commentary on the Circle of Place Spirituality
2018 (English)In: Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, Volume 29 / [ed] Andrew Village, Ralph W. Hood, Brill Academic Publishers, 2018, Vol. 29, p. 175-185Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In our response to “the Circle of Place Spirituality” we note that, in revised form, the presented model could make a contribution to the attachment-religion framework. We contend that exploration of places may facilitate a sense of closeness to God. However, we raise conceptual concerns regarding “attachment to place” and we reflect on the fuzzy boundary conditions of attachment relationships. Using late Wittgenstein’s idea of “family resemblances” and later prototype models of categorization, we emphasize that there are substantial dissimilarities between people’s relationships to physical places on the one hand and their relationships with interpersonal partners and anthropomorphized entities (such as God) on the other. The attachment construct generally applies to the latter, but not the former.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Brill Academic Publishers, 2018
Series
Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, ISSN 1046-8064 ; 29
Keywords
attachment, place attachment, religion/spirituality, Wittgenstein
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-176233 (URN)10.1163/9789004382640_010 (DOI)978-90-04-38263-3 (ISBN)978-90-04-38264-0 (ISBN)
Available from: 2019-11-25 Created: 2019-11-25 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
3. In the State we Trust? Attachment-Related Avoidance is Related to Lower Trust, Both in Other People and in Welfare State Institutions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>In the State we Trust? Attachment-Related Avoidance is Related to Lower Trust, Both in Other People and in Welfare State Institutions
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-192635 (URN)
Available from: 2021-04-26 Created: 2021-04-26 Last updated: 2022-02-25Bibliographically approved

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Gruneau Brulin, Joel

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