The relationships among religious orientation, conceptual systems, and values

Thomas John Faiola, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship of religious orientation, conceptual functioning, and value priorities. The religious-orientation approach to the study of religiousness differentiates the extrinsic, intrinsic, and quest religious orientations. The three religious orientations were correlated with the developmental measure of conceptual functioning as elaborated in Conceptual Systems Theory (Harvey et al., 1961) and with value priorities as presented in Values Theory (Schwartz, 1992; Schwartz & Bilsky, 1987). The sample consisted of 265 college graduates from a Christian religious background. Each participant completed the Religious Orientation Inventory, the Quest Scale, the This-I-Believe Test, the Values Survey, and a demographic data sheet. Participants were divided according to level of conceptual functioning into one of four predominant systems. Three hypotheses were tested in the study. The first examined the assumption that the intrinsic and quest religious orientations would correlate similarly with the higher levels of conceptual functioning. The second hypothesis investigated the assumption that value priorities such as universalism and self-direction that were subsumed under the higher order value dimensions of self-transcendence and openness to change would correlate with the intrinsic and quest orientations while the extrinsic orientation would correlate with values subsumed under the conservation and self-enhancement dimensions. Finally, the study examined the assumption that not only conceptual functioning but also value priorities would predict religious orientation. The results of the study indicated that the quest religious orientation was correlated positively with higher levels of conceptual functioning than the intrinsic and extrinsic orientations. The value priorities that most clearly distinguished among the 3 religious orientations were benevolence, subsumed under the self-transcendence dimension; conformity, tradition, and security, subsumed under the conservation dimension; hedonism, subsumed under the self-enhancement dimension; and stimulation, subsumed under the openness to change dimension. The results indicated that value priorities were significant predictors that could interact with different levels of conceptual functioning to predict religious orientation. Several issues relating to the theoretical and operational construct of religious orientation were discussed in relation to previous research. Recommendations for future research, based on the limitations of the current study and inferences from the literature, were made.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Developmental psychology|Religion

Recommended Citation

Faiola, Thomas John, "The relationships among religious orientation, conceptual systems, and values" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3040394.