How our perception of supernatural beings revolves around good and evil
A new study from the University of Waterloo reveals that everyday beliefs of humans about supernatural beings could be centered around their beliefs on people, and what makes them ‘good’, or ‘bad’.
In the way characters are formulated by their motivations and characteristics which further indicate their evilness or goodness, humans see other individuals the same way.
In this study, researchers examined the expectations of humans regarding how good and evil individuals are. The researchers were intrigued to understand why movies and folktales usually represent the devil and demons as keen to allow unforeseen requests, but angels are not written this way.
Their study indicates that people’s beliefs about good and evil characters are influenced by their views of ordinary humans.
Ori Friedman, a lead author of the study says, “These findings shape people’s expectations about requests directed both to regular humans and to supernatural agents.”
The study reveals that people have distinct concepts of how being good or bad impacts the decisions of others. People assume that evil individuals are unconcerned about anything that doesn’t immediately affect their aims.
This research confirms that some of people’s everyday beliefs about supernatural beings could be reflected by their beliefs of humans.
Brandon Goulding, a Ph.D., and co-author of this study reveal, “One aspect of seeing someone as evil might be that we expect that person to put less emphasis on the intentions of others and instead focus more on the outcome of people’s actions. Whereas we think that a good person will also consider what someone meant to do, and weigh that against what they did.”
How did the researchers find this?
Researchers studied people’s expectations regarding good and evil agents through five experiments. A total of 2,231 participants read short stories on a protagonist’s request to either a human or supernatural being and assessed if the request will be granted or not.
When the request was given to someone good, the request depending on a lot of factors, but evil individuals were expected to grant requests even when they were in a state of confusion or didn’t reflect the requester’s aims.
Friedman says, “This research tells us something very interesting about how people view good and evil, which is that people don’t just think that evil agents focus exclusively on causing harm. Instead, people relate evil to being indifferent and to not caring about what people want,”
“It also suggests that people think moral goodness is about more than producing good outcomes. People also see moral goodness as being connected with caring about what people want and intend,” he concludes.
This article is attributed to Science Daily