Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 135–146 | Cite as

We are not alone: The meaning motive, religiosity, and belief in extraterrestrial intelligence

  • Clay RoutledgeEmail author
  • Andrew A. Abeyta
  • Christina Roylance
Original Paper


We tested the proposals that paranormal beliefs about extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) are motivated, in part, by the need for meaning and that this existential motive helps explain the inverse relationship between religiosity and ETI beliefs. In Study 1, we experimentally establish that the motive to find meaning in life increases ETI beliefs. In Study 2, we replicate previous research demonstrating that low religiosity is associated with greater ETI beliefs. In Studies 3–4 we tested and found support for a model linking low religiosity to low presence of meaning, high search for meaning, and greater ETI beliefs. In all, our findings offer a motivational account of why people endorse paranormal beliefs about intelligent alien beings observing and influencing the lives of humans.


Meaning Religiosity Atheism Extraterrestrial intelligence 



The research reported was partially funded by a grant to the first author from the John Templeton Foundation (#47996).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

In addition, informed consent was obtained from all participants in the reported studies and all participants were fully debriefed after they participated in the study.

Research involving human and animal participants

All procedures performed in the reported studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the American Psychological Association Ethics Code.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clay Routledge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew A. Abeyta
    • 1
  • Christina Roylance
    • 1
  1. 1.North Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA

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