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Dissociation and religiosity 1 The relationship between dissociation and religiosity: An empirical evaluation of Schumaker’s theory.

Martin J. Dorahy( School of Psychology University of New England N. S. W., Australia Christopher Alan Lewis( School of Psychology and Communication University of Ulster at Magee College Londonderry, Northern Ireland Running Head: DISSOCIATION AND RELIGIOSITY Published in: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40, 315-322

(2000).
An abbreviated version of this paper was presented at the Annual conference of the British Psychological Society-Northern Ireland Branch, Carrigart, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland, 1998.
(

Mr Martin Dorahy is a post-graduate student at the School of Psychology, University

of New England, Armidale, 2351, N.S.W., Australia (address for reprints) and psychologist at Belmont Private Hospital, Brisbane, Australia. Email: mdorahy@metz.une.edu.au
(

Dr Christopher Alan Lewis is a lecturer in the School of Psychology and

Communication, University of Ulster, BT48 7JL, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Email: ca.lewis@ulst.ac.uk Abstract

Dissociation and religiosity 2 Dissociation can be broadly understood as alterations in consciousness where integrated processing of psychological and/or sensory information is disrupted. Following Schumaker’s (1995) suggestion that dissociation elicited by religious ritual provides the basis for religious beliefs the current aim was to empirically assess the relationship between dissociation, religious ritual and religious beliefs. Four samples with varying levels of religious commitment were administered the Dissociative Experiences Scale, the Francis Scale of Attitude Toward Christianity-short form and the Maranell Religious Ritual Scale. Dissociation scores were highest in the young Catholic sample and lowest in the Fellowship group. However, these results are largely affected by the co-variate of age. No relationship was found between dissociation, religious attitude and religious ritual in the student sample. Yet small to moderate significant correlations were found in the Catholic sample. Results are discussed with reference to Schumaker’s theoretical proposal and directions are suggested for future assessment of the dissociation-religiosity relationship.

Dissociation and religiosity 3 The relationship between dissociation and religiosity: An empirical evaluation of Schumaker’s theory.

With a broader emphasis on the theoretical and empirical study of dissociation, researchers have expanded beyond the psychiatric (post-traumatic) model, to examine more mundane psychological and behavioral states (Hilgard, 1986; Ludwig, 1983). This has lead to scholarly interest in dissociation at the adaptive level and the role it plays in everyday psychological functioning. While dissociation has numerous aspects and characteristics (see Schumaker, 1995 for more detailed discussion), in broad terms it can be understood as alterations in consciousness where integrated processing of psychological and/or sensory information is disrupted. One recent theoretical direction argues that dissociation is the basis for the uniquely human ability to manipulate reality, through such processes as self-deception and automatic acceptance of suggestions (Sackheim, 1983; Schumaker, 1995). Accordingly, Schumaker (1995) has formulated a unified theory of religion, hypnosis and psychopathology. This model suggests that these three human behavioral patterns are forms, or culturally-defined mediums, of reality manipulation or distortion. Moreover, reality manipulation is reliant on the cognitive ability to connect and disconnect mental processes. Hilgard (1986) argues that this is the primary characteristic of dissociation. Schumaker (1995), among others, has suggested that regulating reality to fit existing personal and cultural cognitive frameworks is essential for continued mental health (Roth & Ingram, 1985; Taylor, 1989). With relation to religion, religious beliefs are an adaptive means of regulating reality (Schumaker, 1995). This view is supported by the controversial, but generally reported finding, that mental health is positively associated with increased scores on scales measuring religious attitudes, behaviors and beliefs (e.g., Batson & Ventis, 1982; Bergin, 1983; Chamberlain & Zika, 1992; Donahue, 1985; Dorahy, Lewis,

Dissociation and religiosity 4 Schumaker, Sibiya, Akuamoah-Boateng, & Duke, 1998; Loewenthal, 1995; Schumaker, 1992a; Stark, 1971; Witter, Stock, Okun, & Haring, 1985). Furthermore, psychological disturbance has been found to effect non-religious people significantly more than religious people (Schumaker, 1992b). Within a religious context, dissociation is facilitated by religious ritual. Schumaker (1995) argues that ritualistic behavior during religious worship allows participants to enter either an overt or more implicit dissociative mental state. Price and Snow (1998) believe that all religious services are characterized by dissociation in one form or another. They also note that religious dissociation is fundamental to “stepping outside of physical reality” and experiencing faith (Price & Snow, 1998, p. 259). In examining the link between religious-ritual and dissociation, Dorahy, Schumaker, Krishnamurthy, and Kumar (1997) found that Indian students had higher ritual and dissociation scores than Australian students. This is consistent with the belief that Hinduism contains more religious ritual than modern Christianity (Saha, 1993; Schumaker, 1996). Hence it is argued that dissociative functioning is cued by religious ritual behavior which enables the integration of "uncensored" suggestions (Schumaker, 1995). While Schumaker’s (1995) theory overtly states that ritual engages dissociative processes, an assumption throughout is the association between religious beliefs and dissociation. During a state of dissociation, higher rational mental processes are disengaged (Hilgard, 1986; Ludwig, 1983). Thus religious suggestions, which in and of themselves may contain information inconsistent with objective reality, are able to by-pass higher order cognitive control and integrate with religious schemas. The heightened level of suggestion that accompanies dissociative states enables religious information to be more easily accepted and is therefore of immense benefit in the religious setting. If suggestions, which may take the form of creeds, prayers and scripture, are given during episodes of dissociation, they are less likely to be scrutinized by monitory processes which attempt to filter out inconsistent or

Dissociation and religiosity 5 seemingly irrational information. Therefore, information presented during dissociative states are more likely to be integrated with conscious awareness and memory content. The acceptance of religious suggestions are of untold value to members of religious groups as they support, foster and strengthen religious beliefs (Dorahy, 1999). Accordingly, dissociative states, frequently induced by ritual enactment, can play an important part in religious celebrations as they provide less resistance to the religious information (suggestions) which consolidates religious beliefs. Individuals who live their life through rigid and well-defined religious beliefs are likely to rely on dissociative processes to foster and strengthen these beliefs. However, individuals with less reliance on, and commitment to, religious beliefs are likely to show a reduced need to use dissociative functioning to bolster theological convictions. It has been shown that dissociation is influenced by practice-effects (Kilbourne, 1983; Simpson, 1996). Thus, individuals with rigid religious belief systems are likely to experience more dissociation in everyday life than individuals with a more liberal belief system. The aim of the present study was to determine the degree or extent to which dissociation is related to religious beliefs as well as religious ritual in samples with varying levels of religious commitment. As age has been previously found to be a predictor of dissociative experience (Goldberg, 1999; Ross, Ryan, Anderson, Ross, & Hardy, 1989; Torem, Hermanowski, & Curdue, 1992), it was controlled as a co-variate during the analysis. Samples were taken from designated religious populations and from the student population. The religious samples consisted of individuals who regularly practized their denominational faiths. In accordance with Schumaker’s (1995) theory, it was expected that the religious groups would have higher scores on measures of attitude toward Christianity, religious ritual and dissociation than the student sample. It was also expected that the

Dissociation and religiosity 6 measures of religiosity would be positively associated with dissociation scores, especially in the religious samples.

Method Participants Four samples were employed in the present study: Participants in the first sample were 67 regularly practicing Catholic church attendees involved in formal parish prayer groups. Twenty one were male, 46 were female. This sample, referred to as the ‘Catholic sample’, was collected from parishes around County Derry, Northern Ireland and had a mean age of 50.6 years (SD: 16.7). The second sample were 26 participants involved in a young peoples prayer group from one Catholic parish in County Derry, Northern Ireland. Twelve were male, 14 were female. This sample had a mean age of 18.7 years (SD: 1.9) and were referred to as the ‘young Catholics.’ Participants in the third sample were 90 students from the University of Ulster at Magee College, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Thirty one were male, 59 were female. This sample was known as the ‘Student sample’ and had a mean age of 30 years (SD: 9.5). The fourth sample were 28 practitioners from a Christian Fellowship Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Half the group (N = 14) were male. This sample had a mean age of 35.3 years (SD: 10.4) and were referred to as the ‘Fellowship sample’.

Materials and Procedure Participants were administered the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES; Carlson & Putnam, 1993), the Francis Scale of Attitude Toward Christianity-short form (ATCS-SF; Francis, 1993) and the Maranell Religious Ritual Scale (RRS; Maranell, 1974). Furthermore, participants were asked to respond to a single item measuring frequency of

Dissociation and religiosity 7 church attendance which was scored along a Likert-type scale from 1 (never) to 7 (three or more time a week). Finally the demographic items of age and sex were obtained. The questionnaire battery was distributed to all participants along with a stamped addressed envelope for return to the research team. The DES contains 28-items and is the most frequently used measure of dissociation. It contains items believed to tap normal and abnormal dissociative experience. A sample item is ‘Some people have the experience of driving or riding in a car or bus or subway and suddenly realizing that they don’t remember what has happened during all or part of the trip. Circle a number to show what percentage of time this happens to you’ (item 1). Responses are made by circling a percentage point between 0% and 100%. The DES has a test-retest reliability between .84 - .96 and an internal consistency of .95 (Carlson, 1994). Recent work has suggested that eight items (DES items 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 22, 27) form a discrete subscale which assesses pathological dissociation (Waller, Putnam, & Carlson, 1996; Waller & Ross, 1997). This subscale is known as the DES-T. While there is debate, scores over 35 appear to provide adequate sensitivity and specificity for isolating pathological dissociators (e.g., Shalev, Freedman, Peri, Brandes, & Sahar, 1997). The ATCS-SF (Francis, 1993) contains 7-items measuring the strength of attitude towards such things as prayer, Bible, Jesus and God. An example item is ‘I know that Jesus helps me’ (item 2). Responses range from 1 (disagree strongly) to 5 (agree strongly). The ATCS-SF has consistently shown good psychometric properties in both religious and nonreligious samples (Francis, 1993; Francis, Lewis, Philipchalk, Brown, & Lester, 1995; Maltby & Lewis, 1997; Lewis, Shevlin, Lloyd, & Adamson, 1998). The RRS (Maranell, 1974) is a 12-item Likert-type scale ranging from 0 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). It contains items assessing attitude towards religious ritual practice. It has a test-retest reliability of .87 and has shown good construct validity and

Dissociation and religiosity 8 alpha coefficients (Maranell, 1974). A sample item is ‘The ritual of worship is a very important part of religion’ (item 1). Results As dissociative ability is influenced by a number of developmental variables (e.g., traumatic experience), which may elevate scores on the DES, each sample was examined for outliers. Outliers were determined on the basis of DES-T scores. A cut-off of 35 on the DES-T was adopted which had the advantage of isolating and removing those individuals thought to be experiencing dissociation at a pathological level. Two participants were removed from the Catholic sample, four were removed from the young Catholic sample and five were removed from the student sample. No participants in the Fellowship group scored above 35 on the DES-T and therefore none were removed. Frequency of church attendance was highest in the two Catholic samples with participants involved in formal religious worship more than once a week. As a group the Fellowship sample reported church attendance at least once a week, while the Student sample reported considerably less than once a week church attendance. Descriptive statistics for the DES, ATCS-SF, and RRS are presented in table 1. Post hoc Sheffe analysis show that the Student sample had significantly lower ATCS-SF scores than the three religious groups. Yet, all groups recorded scores over 21 indicating a general positive attitude towards Christianity (Francis, 1993). The Student sample also showed a significantly lower score on the RRS than the Catholic and young Catholic samples, but not the Fellowship sample. __________________________ Insert table 1 about here ___________________________ A substantial literature has now accrued indicating that dissociation decreases with age (Goldberg, 1999; Ross, Ryan, Anderson, Ross, & Hardy, 1989; Torem,

Dissociation and religiosity 9 Hermanowski, & Curdue, 1992). Given the considerable differences in mean age for the four samples dissociation was correlated with age to determine the extent of relationship and gauge whether this would effect overall results. A significant negative correlation was found between age and dissociation overall, r = -.38, (p<001). To statistically control for the influence of age on dissociation, an ANCOVA was conducted on dissociation scores across the four samples, using age as the covariate. Age was found to make a significant contribution to dissociation scores [F (1, 181) = 34.85, p < .001]. Yet even with age held constant a significant main effect was found across the four groups [F (3, 181) = 9.23, p < .001]. Post hoc tests using age controlled weightings were conducted. Significant differences between all samples (see Table 1) were found, with the exception of the Catholic and Fellowship samples which showed a non-significant difference. Correlational analysis, with age partialled out, were performed to examine if a relationship existed between the measures of religiosity and dissociation. This analysis was limited to the Catholic sample and the Student sample, due to the small sample size of the young Catholics and the Fellowship group. As shown in Table 2 small, significant positive correlations were found between ritual and dissociation, and religious beliefs and dissociation for the Catholic sample. In comparison, these results were not replicated in the Student group with no relationship found between dissociation and the religiosity measures.

__________________________ Insert table 2 about here __________________________ In an attempt to determine the stability of the correlations in the catholic group, the three religious groups were merged to form one religious sample (N = 115). While this

Dissociation and religiosity 10 analysis represents a post-hoc extension from the previous analysis it is theoretically offset by the apriori concern regarding age effects on dissociation. This concern is especially relevant when studying dissociative correlates in adolescents who typically show elevated dissociation. This natural developmental variation in dissociation in adolescents is likely to affect the accuracy of dissociative correlates. With this in mind correlations between dissociation and the religiosity measures were conducted with the three religious groups merged and also with only the two adult religious groups merged (i.e., young Catholics omitted). The results from these analysis (Table 3) show that with the young Catholics included the relationship between dissociation and religious beliefs is reversed compared to both the catholic sample in isolation or when the young Catholics are omitted from the merged religious sample. The correlation between dissociation and religious ritual remained stable across all analysis. Yet, the magnitude of the relationship was increased with the young Catholics omitted. In all, the instability of dissociation in adolescents may create spurious effects on dissociative correlates. ____________________________ Insert Table 3 about here ____________________________ Discussion Following Schumaker’s (1995) theorizing the current study was designed to examine the level of dissociation in religiously committed groups and a comparison group. It was argued that dissociative scores should be higher in religious groups as dissociation facilitates religious beliefs. Furthermore the extent of relation between dissociation and measures of religiosity were also assessed. In measuring dissociative levels across groups, it was expected that the religious samples would show higher dissociation scores than the Student sample. However, with the exception of the young Catholic group, who had a significantly higher dissociation score than all other

Dissociation and religiosity 11 groups, the Student sample showed a higher level of dissociation than the Catholic and fellowship groups. Thus although clear differences in dissociation existed across samples, the direction of these differences was not fully predicted. Consequently, if taken at face value, the currently findings are not supportive of the predictions drawn from Schumaker’s (1995) theory. Yet, sample age appears a predominant issue with the Catholic sample being significantly older than all other groups, while the young Catholics were significantly younger. Results from this study suggest that due to the influential effect of age on dissociative experience, research employing differences methods, such as ANOVA, to examine the relationship between dissociation and religiosity will be thwarted if sample mean ages differ. This study statistically controlled for the known co-variate of age, but future work may be best serviced by using age congruent samples and experimentally control for this co-variate. More telling for the current predictions are the results found between dissociation and religiosity using correlational measures. The relationships between dissociation, religious-ritual and attitude toward Christianity found in the Catholic group were not found in the Student sample. Moreover, with the young Catholics omitted from the merged religious group, the results remained comparatively stable with the Catholic sample alone. Interestingly, the dramatic differences between correlations for dissociation and religious beliefs with and without the young Catholics in the merged sample demonstrate the marked effects of age which seems to be a central theme in this work. While correlational findings cannot support causal inferences they do suggest an association between religious-ritual, religious beliefs and dissociation in religious practitioners, which is not evident in less religious groups. This is especially evident

Dissociation and religiosity 12 for the association between religious ritual and dissociation which remained relatively unchanged across all analyses. Both Schumaker (1995) and Price and Snow (1998) have suggested that dissociation is an inherent part of religiosity. Dissociation is believed to foster and strengthen religious beliefs (Schumaker, 1995; Dorahy, 1999), making individuals with more rigidly defined theological convictions more prone to dissociation. Religious dissociation aids the development of religious beliefs by disengaging higher-order cognitive processes which monitor incoming information. Consequently, during dissociative states stimuli consistent with faith, but not necessarily consistent with reason, are less likely to be questioned. As Price and Snow (1998) have elucidated, the dissociative states which reinforce religious convictions are triggered by religious ritual and other cues prominent during religious worship, such as music, movement and language. The proposed link between dissociation, religious ritual and religious beliefs is supported by the current findings. Moreover, the theoretical underpinnings of this work are further strengthened by the fact that individuals who have less commitment and conviction to religion, such as the Student sample in this study, do not show an association between dissociation and religiosity. While Schumaker’s (1995) theory provides an adequate explanation for the associational results, future work is cautioned against using irreligious groups in replicating this study. Groups showing no appreciable score or variance on measures of religiosity will show no relationship with other measures, thus creating an experimental confound. The Student sample used here was considerably less religious than the Catholic sample but could not be described as irreligious. Indeed their mean score on the ATCS-SF indicate a positive attitude toward Christianity. Hence the current results are not likely to be a by-product of this aspect of the methodology.

Dissociation and religiosity 13 The theoretical model applied here argues that religious-ritual elicits dissociation and that this dissociative state provides a platform for the acceptance of religious suggestion, which foster religious beliefs. The goals of the current study were not to test this model, but to examine the relationship between its components. Due to large discrepancies in sample age the comparison of dissociation scores across samples provided potentially confounded results, which deserve further empirical attention using a more refined methodology. However, the results do provide support for the belief that dissociation is related to religious ritual and religious beliefs in individuals regularly practizing their faith. Yet, replicating studies are needed to determine if the results hold up in samples in religious denominations other than Catholicism. Finally, attempts need to be made to further scrutinize the dynamics of the dissociation-religiosity model. The present study represents further progress in trying to clarify the relationship between dissociation and religion.

Dissociation and religiosity 14 References Batson, C. D., & Ventis, W. L. (1982). The religious experience: A socialpsychological perspective. New York: Oxford University Press. Bergin, A. E. (1983). Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta-analysis. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14, 170-184. Carlson, E. B. (1994). Studying the interaction between physical and psychological states with the Dissociative Experiences Scale. In D. Spiegel (Ed.), Dissociation: Culture, mind, and body (pp. 41-58). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press. Carlson, E. B., & Putnam, F. W. (1993). An update on the Dissociative Experiences Scale. Dissociation, 6, 16-27. Chamberlain, K., & Zika, S. (1992). Religiosity, meaning in life, and psychological well-being. In J. F. Schumaker, (Ed.), Religion and mental health (pp. 138-148). New York: Oxford University Press. Donahue, M. J. (1985). Intrinsic and extrinsic religiousness: Review and metaanalysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 400-419. Dorahy, M. J. (1999). The expanding role of dissociation in religion and secular worship. Under preparation. Dorahy, M. J., Lewis, C. A., Schumaker, J. F., Sibiya, T. E., Akuamoah-Boateng, R., & Duke, M. C. (1998). A cross cultural analysis of religion and life satisfaction. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 1, 37-43. Dorahy, M. J., Schumaker, J. F., Krishnamurthy, B., & Kumar, P. (1997). Religious ritual and dissociation in India and Australia. Journal of Psychology, 131, 471-476. Francis, L. J. (1993). Reliability and validity of a short scale of attitude towards Christianity among adults. Psychological Reports , 72, 615-618.

Dissociation and religiosity 15 Francis, L. J., Lewis, J. M., Philipchalk, R., Brown, L. B., & Lester, D. (1995). Reliability and validity of a short scale of attitude toward Christianity among students in the U.K., U.S.A., Australia, and Canada. Psychological Reports, 77, 431-434. Goldberg, L. R. (1999). The curious experiences survey, a revised version of the dissociative experiences scale: Factor structure, reliability, and relations to demographic and personality variables. Psychological Assessment, 11, 134-145. Hilgard, E. R. (1986). Divided consciousness: Multiple controls in human thought and action. New York: John Wiley. Kilbourne, B. (1983). The Conway and Siegelman claims against religious cults: An assessment of their data. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22, 380-385. Lewis, C. A., Shevlin, M. E., Lloyd, N. S. V., & Adamson, G. (1998). The Francis Scale of Attitude Towards Christianity (short scale): Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis among English students. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 13, 167-175. Loewenthal, K. M. (1995). Mental health and religion. London: Chapman and Hall. Ludwig, A. M. (1983). The psychobiological function of dissociation. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 26, 93-99. Maltby, J., & Lewis, C.A. (1997). The reliability and validity of a short scale of attitude towards Christianity among U.S.A., English, Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 5, 649-654. Maranell, G. M. (1974). Responses to religion. Wichita, KN: University of Kansas Press. Price, C. A., & Snow, M. S. (1998). Ceremonial dissociation in American Protestant worship. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 17, 257-265. Ross, C. A., Ryan, L., Anderson, G., Ross, D., & Hardy, L. (1989). Dissociative experience in adolescents and college students. Dissociation, 2, 239-242.

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Dissociation and religiosity 18 Table 1. Means and Standard deviations for the Dissociative Experiences Scale, the Attitude Towards Christianity Scale-Short Form and the Religious Ritual Scale. DES Sample Catholic Young Catholic Students Fellowship Mean 10.33 25.55 16.95 8.34 SD 8.23 12.90 11.23 5.42 ATCS-SF Mean SD 32.58 2.88 29.32 3.15 24.72 6.42 34.57 0.92 RRS Mean 26.92 22.41 17.93 9.96 SD 9.40 8.33 8.71 5.34

Dissociation and religiosity 19 Table 2. Correlations between dissociation and religiosity controlling for age Catholic r DES .30* .43*** Student r DES .09 .08

ATCS-SF RRS * <.05 *** <.01

Dissociation and religiosity 20 Table 3. Age controlled correlations between dissociation and religiosity for combined religious groups Young Catholics Included (r) DES -.09 .32** Young Catholics Omitted (r) DES .20 .40***

ATCS-SF RRS ** < .01 *** < .001