Valerie Martin has spent her summer studying God.
Well, not exactly.
A senior majoring in psychology and minoring in philosophy, Martin received the J. Douglas Shand Fund for Faculty-Student Summer Research in Psychology – named after a former professor in the college's psychology department – to conduct summer research with two social psychology professors, Abigail Scholer and Brian Meier.
Scholer examines self-regulation and how someone motivates him or herself while Meier studies metaphor and perception, including how people perceive "God" or a single deity. Martin combined their expertise with her interest in mental health to come up with her summer research.
Martin is conducting a study to find out if someone's motivation type has an effect on their perception of God and whether they view God as loving or controlling. She explained that there are two types of motivation: promotion, where people eagerly pursue goals and are willing to take risks; and prevention, where people pursue goals more cautiously. Both types end up at the same goal, but it is the approach that differs, Martin said. She is also trying to determine if there is a way that people should perceive God that is healthier for them and fits their motivation type.
Martin outlined the following predictions for the study.
"We predicted that a promotion-focused individual would be more likely to perceive God as loving and caring because of their focus on desires and ideals (goals of desire/ideals would better be supported by a loving God). We predicted that a prevention-focused individual would be more likely to perceive God as punishing and punitive because of their focus on oughts and responsibilities (goals focusing on oughts/responsibilities would better be supported by a punitive God). We hope to not only find these predictions true, but also to find that they predict regulatory fit and better mental health."
Martin spent weeks combing through articles and published literature on the topic and in the field. She also had to develop the survey and validate it using standard protocols and measurements.
Using a national, online database, Martin surveyed more than 200 participants and had them answer questions in separate sections on God, motivation type, and mental health on a sliding scale from 1 to 7. The study specified that respondents had to believe in a single deity - the most common were Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Martin is still evaluating responses and collating data, but hopes to find significant correlations that she can further investigate this fall. She has been asked by the psychology department to conduct senior honors research during her final year at Gettysburg. Scholer will serve as her advisor, but Martin will work with Meier as his research assistant.
"It would be great to find out that this study has contributed new information to the field," Martin said. "If it does, we plan on publishing."
By: Kendra Martin, director of media relations & news content, 717.337.6801
Get all the latest news delivered to your inbox or RSS reader:
The Office of Communications and Marketing is looking for stories about Gettysburgians doing great work.
Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.