Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


Dominating conceptual paradigm in the empirical psychology of religion during the last three decades.

Based on Gordon Allport's theoretical distinction between mature and immature religion (see Allport and Ross 1967), the construction of an intrinsic-extrinsic scale to measure different religious orientations appeared to clarify the troubling finding that general measures of religion had positively correlated with prejudice. Consistent with Allport's conceptualization of mature religion, it was found that only extrinsic religion, or religion as a means, correlated with prejudice. Intrinsic religion, or religion as an end, characterized the unprejudiced and was compatible with Allport's views of mature religion. The scale to measure religious orientation, initially conceived as a continuum from extrinsic to intrinsic, quickly generated interest among empirical researchers. Numerous studies have been published that relate intrinsic and extrinsic religion to a variety of individual difference variables such as coping styles, narcissism, guilt, fear of death, a wide variety of religious experiences, various cognitive processes, and varieties of prejudice.

Consistent with Allport's view of mature religiosity, extrinsic but not intrinsic religiosity typically correlates with more dysfunctional psychological constructs. Many psychometric critiques and modifications of the scales have been published. The only consensus is that extrinsic and intrinsic must be treated as independent scales, not as a continuum as initially conceived. Major critical reviews have emphasized the lack of theory-driven research, the inadequacies of these scales to operationalize fully Allport's theory, and the failure to clearly define religious orientations in value-neutral terms. The psychometric limitations of the original scales repeatedly have been challenged. An age-universal version of these scales is available. It is a matter of contention whether the scales are best used as independent dimensions or the basis for constructing typologies. Studies using these scales and theoretically linked alternatives continue to provide the major database for the contemporary empirical psychology of religion.

Ralph W. Hood, Jr .


G. W. Allport and J. M. Ross, "Personal Religious Orientation and Prejudice," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 5(1967):432-443

C. T. Burris, "Curvilinearity and Religious Types," International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 4(1994):245-260

M. J. Donahue, "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Religiousness," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 48(1985):400-419

R. W. Hood, Jr. (ed.), "Symposium on Religious Orientation Typologies," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 24(1985):407-442

R. A. Hunt and M. King, "The Intrinsic-Extrinsic Concept," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 10(1971):339-356

L. A. Kirkpatrick and R. W. Hood, Jr., "Intrinsic-Extrinsic Religious Orientation," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 29(1990):442-462.

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