The Supernatural Search for Meaning 

Humans pursue meaning in many distinct ways. However, supernatural beliefs offer a particularly potent source of meaning because they suggest that there is more to existence than the material.

Though some people reject the idea of the supernatural, many people turn to supernatural concepts and beliefs in their search for meaning and to cope with situations that threaten meaning.

Our lab has discovered that even people who reject conventional supernatural beliefs (e.g., atheists) are sometimes attracted to less traditional supernatural beliefs (e.g., paranormal beliefs)or supernatural-like beliefs (e.g., belief in powerful alien beings) when looking for meaning.

More broadly, our lab explores the different ways both atheists and theists approach the pursuit of meaning in life and how spirituality connects to meaning for both groups.

Images by J Routledge


Select Publications

Nelson, T. A.,Abeyta, A. A, & Routledge, C. (in press). Does meaning motivate magical thinking among theists and atheists? Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Nelson, T. A., Abeyta, A. A. & Routledge, C. (in press). What makes life meaningful for theists and atheists? Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

Routledge, C. (2018). Supernatural: Death, meaning, and the power of the invisible world. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Abeyta, A. & Routledge, C. (2018). The need for meaning and religiosity: An individual differences approach to assessing existential needs and the relation with religious commitment, beliefs, and experiences. Personality and Individual Differences, 123, 6-13.

Routledge, C., Abeyta, A. A., & Roylance, C. (2018). Death and end times: The effects of mortality salience and religious fundamentalism on apocalyptic beliefs. Religion, Brain, & Behavior, 8, 21-30.

Routledge, C., Abeyta, A. A., & Roylance, C. (2017). We are not alone: The meaning motive, religiosity, and belief in extraterrestrial intelligence. Motivation and Emotion, 41, 135-146.

Routledge, C., Abeyta, A. A., & Roylance, C.  (2017). Further exploring the relationship between religion and existential health: The effects of religiosity and trait differences in mentalizing on indicators of meaning in life. Journal of Religion and Health, 56, 604-613.

Routledge, C. Abeyta, A. & Roylance, C. (2016). An existential function of evil: The effects of religiosity and compromised meaning on belief in magical evil forces. Motivation and Emotion, 40, 681-688.