In a fascinating study recently conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, psychologists have revealed what the average Christian in the United States believes God looks like.
The research team showed a group of 511 people who identified as Christians hundreds of randomly varying facial pairs. The participants were asked to choose which of each pair was more like what they thought that God looked like. The researchers then chose the faces which were selected by the largest number of participants and merged them together to form the final face of God.
One might imagine that the face of God would be envisaged as the classic bearded older male in the minds of the average American Christian. However, this study debunked this idea. The researchers found that American Christians tend to view God as being younger and slightly more feminine than his classic depiction in art.
One of the most interesting aspects discovered by the researchers is how closely ego centrism is linked to one’s conception of God. “In the beginning, God created man in His own image, ” Voltaire wrote in the eighteenth century, “And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”
This oft-quoted adage has been proven definitively true, according to the researchers who reported that older participants chose older looking faces to represent God, attractive participants chose an attractive looking God and African Americans were more likely to envisage and African American God.
“People’s tendency to believe in a God that looks like them is consistent with an egocentric bias, “said Professor Kurt Gray, the study’s senior author, “People often project their beliefs and traits onto others, and our study shows that God’s appearance is no different – people believe in a God who not only thinks like them but also looks like them.”
Even more surprisingly, the researchers also found that one’s conception of God appears to be strongly linked to one’s political leanings. The study found that those with a conservative outlook on political issues were far more likely to view God as a power, white man than those of a liberal bent who tended to envisage God as being more gentle and feminine in his appearance.
Does the picture match your imagination?