2018: Is This the Face of God?


In order to measure people’s visualizations of God’s face, we used a nascent technique known as “reverse correlation.” In reverse correlation, a face is repeatedly and randomly overlaid with visual noise to create many pairs of contrasting faces. Participants see these contrasting faces side-by-side on a computer screen and select the face from each pair that best matches their representation of a given target or category….In our study, each participant viewed 300 face pairs….[and] selected the face from each pair that better characterized how they imagined God to look.

Joshua Conrad Jackson , Neil Hester, and Kurt Gray: “The faces of God in America: Revealing religious diversity across people and politics” (2018); text here.

The image above shows the composites of God’s perceived face (left) and anti-face (right) across American Christians. The study also shows that “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.” Participants generally saw God as similar to themselves in terms of attractiveness, age, and race.

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