Searching for God: Illness-Related Mortality Threats and Religious Search Volume in Google in 16 Nations

Brett W. Pelham, Mitsuru Shimizu, Jamie Arndt, Mauricio Carvallo, Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We tested predictions about religiosity and terror management processes in 16 nations. Specifically, we examined weekly variation in Google search volume in each nation for 12 years (all weeks for which data were available). In all 16 nations, higher than usual weekly Google search volume for life-threatening illnesses (cancer, diabetes, and hypertension) predicted increases in search volume for religious content (e.g., God, Jesus, prayer) in the following week. This effect held up after controlling for (a) recent past and annual variation in religious search volume, (b) increases in search volume associated with religious holidays, and (c) variation in searches for a non-life-threatening illness (“sore throat”). Terror management threat reduction processes appear to occur across the globe. Furthermore, they may occur over much longer periods than those studied in the laboratory. Managing fears of death via religious belief regulation appears to be culturally pervasive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-303
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • culture and self
  • health
  • religion
  • self/identity
  • terror management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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