UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Belief in karma : the content and correlates of supernatural justice beliefs across cultures White, Cindel Jennifer Melina


Karmic beliefs, centered on the notion of ethical causation within and across lifetimes, appear in religious traditions and spiritual movements around the world, yet they remain an unexplored topic in psychology. I developed and validated a 16-item measure of belief in karma, and used this measure to assess the cultural distribution, cognitive content, and correlates of karmic beliefs among participants from culturally and religiously diverse backgrounds, including Canadian students (Sample 1: N = 3193, Sample 2: N = 3072) and broad national samples of adults from Canada (N = 1000) and India (N = 1006). Belief in karma showed predictable variation based on participant’s cultural (e.g., Indian) and religious (e.g., Hindu and Buddhist) background, but was also surprisingly common among people from cultural groups with no tradition of karmic beliefs (e.g., nonreligious or Christian Canadians). I demonstrate how karmic beliefs are related to, but distinct from, conceptually-similar beliefs, including belief in a just world and belief in a moralizing god. Finally, I provide preliminary evidence of intuitive conceptions of karma, and investigate how karma is related to self-reported prosocial behaviour and moral judgments. Karma is a form of supernatural justice belief, endorsed by many people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds that lies at the intersection between beliefs about justice and morality, and beliefs about supernatural forces that shape the course of life’s events.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International