Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of Religious Involvement on Short-Term Psychological Reactions to the Death of Pope John Paul Ii: A Study on an Italian Sample

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effects of Religious Involvement on Short-Term Psychological Reactions to the Death of Pope John Paul Ii: A Study on an Italian Sample

Article excerpt

The short-term psychological reactions to the death of Pope John Paul Ð were investigated. Between 1 to 6 days after this event, 526 Catholic and atheist Italian adults took part in a questionnaire study. Participants were asked to report the personal circumstances in which they first learned about the Pope's death, their emotional reactions, and their appraisal of the event's importance and consequentially. Other questions assessed immediate memory for the original event, surprise-expectedness, exposure to mass media, and religious involvement. Results showed that the news of the Pope's death, although widely expected, had a strong cognitive and emotional impact. Almost all the participants were able to recall the personal circumstances in which they heard the news. A positive relation was observed between the degree of religious involvement and appraisal of importance and consequentiality, intensity of emotion, memory for event-related details, and frequency of exposure to mass media. Effects related to the age of the participants were also found.

Keywords: religious involvement, cognitive and emotional impact, public event. Pope John Paul II, surprise-expectedness, mass media.

In recent years, psychologists have become increasingly interested in studying psychological reactions to emotionally powerful news events. Research conducted on this subject was inspired by the occurrence of several dramatic facts such as the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger (Bohannon, 1988; Neisser & Harsch, 1992), the death of Princess Diana (Brown, Basil, & Bocamea, 2003), and the September 11 terrorist attacks (Lee & Brown, 2003; Luminet et al., 2004; Pezdek, 2003; Silver, Holman, Mclntosh, Poulin, & Gil-Rivas, 2002; Smith, Bibi, & Sheard, 2003; Tekcan, Ece, Gülgöz, & Er, 2003).

The majority of these studies centered their attention on the so-called flashbulb memory (Brown & Kulik, 1977). This concept refers to people's ability to recall the circumstances in which they first heard about a specific event (i.e., the time, the informant, where they were, who they were with, and what they were doing). Other aspects investigated in these studies were memory for event-related details, emotional reactions, appraisals of importance and consequentiality, mass media exposure, and the social sharing of the news. Generally these studies entailed a test-retest methodology, studying both the immediate memory of the event shortly after it occurred, and the maintenance and distortion of the recalled event in the long term.

Taken together, the studies conducted thus far have demonstrated that the psychological impact of a newsworthy event significantly varies as a function of the participants' involvement with the event. For instance, with reference to the September 11 attacks, Luminet et al. (2004) showed that USA participants considered this event to be more important than did participants living in countries far away from the USA (e.g., Italy, France). Moreover, they found that U.S. respondents reported more intense emotions and were able to recall a greater number of event-related details than were participants from other countries. In the same way, Smith et al. (2003) found that Canadian participants who experienced higher emotional involvement at the time of the terrorist attacks had better event memory than did those who experienced lower levels of emotional involvement. Similar findings have been reported in other studies (Pezdek, 2003; Tekcan et al., 2003). Interestingly, participant involvement has been conceptualized in different ways. While some authors have defined this variable in terms of psychological (Tekcan et al.) or physical distance (Luminet et al.), others consider it to be the degree of emotional arousal elicited by the event (Smith et al.).

The aim in the present work was to investigate the immediate psychological reactions of a sample of Catholic and atheist Italian adults to a highly relevant public event: the death of Pope John Paul II. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.