Metaphors for God: God is High, Light, and Human in Implicit Tasks

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1



God is important in the lives of many people, but God is not necessarily a physical thing for everyone. People use metaphors (e.g., “the man upstairs” or “God is the light”) that pair concrete concepts (high vertical space or brightness) with God in order to aid the understanding of this abstract concept. In three studies involving 294 participants and within-participants designs, we sought to determine if three metaphors for God (God is high, bright, and human) reflect not only the way people talk about God but also the way people think about God. In all studies, we used implicit reaction time tasks to determine if participants would more quickly categorize God-related versus control words when the words were paired with human- or non-human-related words or appeared in a high versus low location or in a bright versus dark font. In all studies, participants were faster to categorize God-related words when they were presented in a manner consistent with metaphor (high, bright, and with humanness). However, individual differences in belief in God, religiousness, and metaphor usage did not moderate the findings. The results reveal that people think about God in metaphoric terms, but these thoughts may not vary by related individual differences.



This item is not available in The Cupola.