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Review of 'The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics'

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4
An original study opening interesting research perspectives on collective representations of God.
Average rating:
    Rated 4 of 5.
Level of importance:
    Rated 4 of 5.
Level of validity:
    Rated 3 of 5.
Level of completeness:
    Rated 4 of 5.
Level of comprehensibility:
    Rated 5 of 5.
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The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics

Literature and art have long depicted God as a stern and elderly white man, but do people actually see Him this way? We use reverse correlation to understand how a representative sample of American Christians visualize the face of God, which we argue is indicative of how believers think about God’s mind. In contrast to historical depictions, Americans generally see God as young, Caucasian, and loving, but perceptions vary by believers’ political ideology and physical appearance. Liberals see God as relatively more feminine, more African American, and more loving than conservatives, who see God as older, more intelligent, and more powerful. All participants see God as similar to themselves on attractiveness, age, and, to a lesser extent, race. These differences are consistent with past research showing that people’s views of God are shaped by their group-based motivations and cognitive biases. Our results also speak to the broad scope of religious differences: even people of the same nationality and the same faith appear to think differently about God’s appearance.
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    Review information

    10.14293/S2199-1006.1.SOR-UNCAT.A5995373.v1.RHRMGU

    This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

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    Review text

    Review of the co-authored paper: Jackson JC, Hester, Gray K (2018) The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics. PLoS ONE 13(6)

    by Dr Frédéric Lefrançois

    The paper co-authored by Joshua Conrad Jackson, Neil Hester and Kurt Gray, covers a wide range of psychosocial issues pertaining to the general perception of God's bodily appearance.

    The study is a rigorous and well-structured one which provides valuable insights for the academic community. It is related to many fields of research in connection with social theory, like self-interaction,  ethno-psychoanalysis and political science.

    The graphs are aptly used and demonstrate the hypothesis in a convincing way.

    The team of researchers involved in this work has based their results and conclusions from data collected with coherent, state-of-the-art methods and research tools. The average "face of God" construed from their survey seems to escape the determinism of ideological paradigms or stereotyped preconceptions which could introduce some bias.

    However, the reader may wonder how the correlation between the politically correct face of God (a more Conservative-friendly one) is to be matched with the morphed picture which looks more Latino than purely Caucasian. Why the Asian segment of the American Christians seems to have been left out of the sampling is also a matter of methodological concern.

    It is probable that this first study will open up fresh perspectives on further research on the political and socio-ethnic factors which contribute to generating a reflective image of God, depending on the circumstances and conditions of social interaction.

    The article is, on the whole, very well-written and accessible to nonspecialists.  A highly recommendable paper.

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