Researchers create 'face of God' using American Christian beliefs
Created an image of God based on data from a large sample of American Christians.

Tyler MacDonald | 4 hours ago

Psychologists from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill constructed an image that they claim represents what a sample of 511 American Christians believe God looks like.

Using hundreds of randomly varying face-pairs, the team asked participants to select faces that were the closest to their image of God. After combining all of the selected faces, the researchers were able to create what they call a composite "face of God" that reflects the imagined form of God in each person's mind.

Although God illustrations are almost always an old, white-bearded Caucasian man, the new study shows a younger, more feminine, and less Caucasian God.

And political affiliation mattered: Liberals envisioned a younger, more feminine, and more loving God than conservatives. Conservatives were also more likely to picture God as more powerful and more Caucasian.

"These biases might have stemmed from the type of societies that liberals and conservatives want," said Joshua Conrad Jackson, the study's lead author. "Past research shows that conservatives are more motivated than liberals to live in a well-ordered society, one that would be best regulated by a powerful God. On the other hand, liberals are more motivated to live in a tolerant society, which would be better regulated by a loving God."

"People's tendency to believe in a God that looks like them is consistent with an egocentric bias," added Kurt Gray, the study's senior author and a psychology professor from UNC-Chapel Hill. "People often project their beliefs and traits onto others, and our study shows that God's appearance is no differentpeople believe in a God who not only thinks like them, but also looks like them."

Interestingly, both men and women in the study envisioned a more masculine-looking God.

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