Cross Cultural Beliefs About the Afterlife

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 20 November 2016

Cross Cultural Beliefs About the Afterlife


A study of American undergraduates indicated that the beliefs about the nature of life after death were quite complicated. A 41-item questionnaire produced 12 independent groups of beliefs. Belief in an internal locus of control and that one’s life is owned by God were associated with a more positive view of the afterlife, as was being Roman Catholic rather than Protestant. The most common beliefs were that one is reunited with family and friends, that the afterlife is comforting, that there is Heaven and that the transition is peaceful, all believed by more than 90 percent of the students.

The afterlife is an idea that the conscious or mind of a being continuous after physical death occurs. There are many different believes about how the afterlife will be and what effects that outcome. In many popular views, this continued existence often takes place in an immaterial or spiritual realm. Major views on the afterlife derive from religion. Deceased people are usually believed to go to a specific planet after death. Regardless of the lack of evidence that is typically believed to be determined by a God. This is based on their actions during physical life. In contrast, the term reincarnation refers to an afterlife in which only the “essence” of the being is preserved, and the “afterlife” is another life on Earth or possibly within the same universe.

Lester, Aldrige, Aspenberg, Boyle, Radsniak, and Waldron (2001-2002) based their research proposal on what Flynn and Kunkel (1987) found. Flynn and Kunkel (1987) used data from about one thousand respondents in the 1983 from a General Social Survey to analyze beliefs that the people had for life after death. They found three groups of beliefs. One is Otherworldly: life of peace, tranquility, paradise of pleasure and delight, loving intellectual communication, union with god and reunion with loved ones.

Worldly Rewards: life of intense action like it is here on earth but a paradise of pleasure and delight. The third group was No Rewards: life without many earthly joys, a pale, shadowy sort of life, spiritually involving mind and not the body. The researchers found that the type of belief held about life-after-death was related to social class, financial status, and a history of trauma.

No recent studies were identified on this issue until Lester et al. (2001-2002). The designing of this study was made to explore and expand the beliefs that people held about life-after-death. They used a 21-item questionnaire of the concepts of the afterlife. In the first method the questionnaire was given to 50 students who were enrolled in social science undergraduate courses. The mean age was 23.8 years old and the participants were mainly white. In the first method nine factors ever extracted about beliefs about afterlife.

There were three major findings from the research that was obtained. One was that 19.8 percent accounted for that the life is much like the life on earth. There is a good and an evil. Not everyone is equal and that there are material objects in the afterlife. 13.4 percent accounted for that the cause of death, rituals carried out for you, the physical and psychotically state at death has an effect on how the afterlife would be. Lastly 8.5 percent accounted for the belief that the afterlife is a specific place, there is a day of judgment, and there is eternal bliss and that that is the final destinations.

The second method was designed to enlarge properties, increase sample size and explore other personality correlates of beliefs, specifically belief on external locus of control. The research study consisted of 152 male and180 female participants who were undergraduate students from the same state college as the participants in the first method. The second method was expanded into a 41-item questionnaire. The mean age in the second method was 22.5 years old and the participants were mainly white. In this method twelve factors were identified about beliefs about afterlife. Three of the major factors were that 12.1 percent believe in Heave and Hell. 7.9 percent believe in reincarnation and 6.6 percent believed that there ate material objects and sexual desire in the after life.

The gender differences that were found are that men are not less likely to believe in afterlife but they were less likely to believe in Heaven, reuniting with loved ones, communication with the living and request for forgiveness before death. Men were more likely the women to believe that there are material objects, that spirits have human form, that there is pain, hunger, thirst and that rituals carried out after death are important. The religious differences they found were that Protestant students were less likely to believe in life-after-death then Roman Catholic students. On the other hand, Protestant students were more likely to believe that there is Hell and that forgiveness needs to be requested to get into Heaven.One of the strengths that this article has is that they provided a broad hypothesis.

It was not specific and that gave them more room to play around with how they want to test the beliefs on life-after-death. They basically just wanted to explore from what was found in previous search on the afterlife and find more detailed data. Another strengths in this article were the specific questions that the participants were asked about their beliefs in the afterlife. The researchers made the questions into simple yes or no answer kinds. This made it easier for the participants to answer what they believe in about the afterlife and it also made it easier and clearer for the researchers to extract the exact data that they were looking for. Also the researchers conducted two methods. There were extra questions that were added also. This helped the researchers find other specific beliefs. Overall, having two methods gives a better view of what data is best to keep and present.

The first weakness of this article is that the date was only consumed from one specific university. This has a major limit on how this data will be taken into account by others. When data is taken only from one part of he country it limits how credible the findings are and how they can be used in future research. Another weakness is that the researchers only conducted a questionnaire in their method to finding data on beliefs about the afterlife. Another weakness is that the sample size was small in the first method. It may be hard to compare data between method one and method two because they have significant difference in sample size. Lastly, a major weakness would be the data expenditure of only undergraduate students with mean ages of 23.8 and 22.5 within the two methods verses consuming data from many different age groups.

Cross-cultural research on beliefs about the afterlife is one of the major directions that can be taken with this research topic just as it was done by: Ambwani, Warren, Gleaves, Benito and Fernandez (2007) in their research on fear of fatness across the world. The data they conducted showed differences in beliefs on what body shape is socially acceptable in the United Sates verses Spain. There are so many different religions, cultures and individual beliefs regarding how life should be lived and what will come out of that. Some religions do not believe in the afterlife at all and some believe that this life is just a test for what will be the ever-lasting life after death.

These differences need to be taken into considerations and research on more to further our understanding about all the cultures in our environments. Another future directions that can be taken with beliefs about the afterlife can be of great importance to the medical fields in research. Patients that have experienced trauma in their lives may have very important data that can help understand why people may have the different thoughts and beliefs about how the afterlife will and what will be in it.

Research Purpose

Cross-cultural Research would be a key direction to take beliefs about afterlife on. This would assess the differences in beliefs about afterlife beyond America. Cross-cultural research is beneficial because it covers a much wider range of variations in cultural activities then other studies that are based on single societies. For this particular subject on afterlife a comparison between America and Croatia will be done. The cultural differences about what beliefs individuals hold will be taken. The purpose is to show how different cultures may have different dynamics in how they believe their life had effected the belief they hold on afterlife. Croatians compared to Americans on average will believe in afterlife more.

Another proposal is to test participants that have experienced trauma verses participants that have not experienced trauma. This would show how experience of trauma can affect a person view on life and how they may feel about afterlife. For this particular research it would show the difference been the two countries and between experience with trauma and experience with no trauma. On average participants that have experienced trauma will have a greater belief in afterlife verses participants with no experience with trauma.

Research Methods

The budget for this research proposal is 12,000.00 dollars. There are 400 participants to which 20.00-dollar Starbucks gift card will be given. That is 400×20, which equals 8,000.00 dollars. The money for the Starbucks gift cards will be transferred from here to Zagreb Croatia trough Bank of America free of charge. There are also four research assistants. Two native speaking Croatians that also speak English from the University of Zagreb and two Americans from Oakland University. Each of the assistants receive 1,000.00 dollars 4×1000, which equals to 4,000.00 for a total of 12,000.00-dollar research budget.

The ideal characteristic for the participants in this research would be that they are college health college students that have a global point of view so that the date that will be collected from them is from a point of view that has seen more then just one way to live. The participants would also be ideal if they are completely honest about their answers since these are completely confidential items on the questionnaire. An equal amount of men and women would also be ideal. Although, that may be a difficult task it can be established by keeping track of how many men and women have come to take the online questionnaire.

There will be 400 student participants will be chosen from America and Croatia. From America the participants will be gathered from Oakland University in Rochester Michigan and from Croatia the participants will be gathered from University of Zagreb in Zagreb. The participants will not be from a specific major study or group but randomly selected individuals. They will all be undergraduate students. There will be a total of 400 participants. Students will be split, 200 from Oakland University and 200 from University of Zagreb.

The sampling methods will proceed in the fallowing order. The questionnaire will be taken online on a website make just for this research. The website that will be made by the Oakland Universities IT departments assistance free of charge. The online questionnaire will be taken individually in a room that will be provided for the research. This way the students do will feel more comfortable and less anxious about answering the questionnaire. There will be a research assistant present in that room during the time when participants take the online questionnaire to assist them of they have any questions about how to start the questionnaire and to assist them when they are done. After the participant completes the online questionnaire the research assistant will grant them with a twenty-dollar Starbucks gift card.

The Measurements will be done with the questionnaire from method two of the original research study. The questionnaire will be back translated to Croatian. Items 1 to 41 will aid in determine if the participants believe in afterlife and what specific facts they believe about afterlife. How will the afterlife be? What will be in the afterlife? These items are very specific and will with no trouble help distinguish between participants that believe in afterlife verses those participants that do not in America and Croatia and it will help find the specifics that participants believe in about afterlife. Items that do not pertain to research purposes will be taken out and replaced with more appropriate items for the research.

The participants will be asked to report their age. Also other items will be added to the questionnaire to fit the need for data consumption for the research of effect of trauma on participants and their beliefs (see appendix 1 for questionnaire items). Items 42 to 55 have been added to assist in finding the right data that is needed. These specific items in the questionnaire will help determine what kind of traumatic even the participant has experienced. Do they believe this has changed how they think and feel the afterlife will be like? Also a consent form and confidentiality agreement will be given to participants to sign.

The data analytic plan will consist of Two-way ANOVA. A Two-way ANOVA of variance is an extension to the one-way analysis of variance. There are two independent variables. Some of the assumptions for Two-way ANOVA are that the population from which the samples are obtained must be somewhat normally distributed. The sample must be independent. The variance of population must be equal and the groups must have the same sample size. The two independent variables in Two-way ANOVA are called factors. The idea is that there are two variable, factors, that effect the dependent variable. Each factor will have two or more factors within it.

For this research study the two independent variables (factors) are American students and Croatian students. Each of the factors has two other factors in it. In this case study the participants with trauma versus participants with no trauma are the factors within the independent variable. When using Two-way ANOVA the main effect, interaction effect and within variation are also establish. The main effect involves the independent variable one at a time. The interaction effect is the effect one factor has on the other factor. Lastly the within effect is the sum of squared within each treatment group. Two-way ANOVA will provide all the necessary dynamics need to aid in this research in finding and separating the data.

The research procedure will consist of the fallowing method to assemble the participants and obtain the data needed. Back-translate the original questionnaire to Croatian. Invite participants to take part in the study via email and announcements by the staff member that are chosen as assistants in this study to their students in class. As participants walk in they will be guided to a computer in the designated room to take the online questionnair. Before participants take the online questionnaire they will be asked to sign a consent and confidentiality form. After taking the online questionnaire participants will receive their twenty-dollar Starbucks gift card. Then data will be collected and analyzed from America and Croatia.

The significance of this research proposal is simply that it can be used in many ways for future research. This is simple because researching on culture always brings up interesting data apart from what the researches goal was to find in first place. However, to focus on the main significance of this research is health care. It is always the fasted growing field and the most advanced in technology but there is also always room for more improvement for people skills and knowledge about diversity. Being that America is the melting pot of the world, knowledge about cultural differences is always needed.

This future direction can serve nurses and doctors and other medical professionals in understanding and communicating better with their patients. Since trauma is nothing new to the health care world it is a major fact that all health care professionals need to advance and keep getting educated about. Trauma has major effects on an individuals and it will have a major effect on what they believe after the traumatic experience. Some people may have come close to death in their traumatic experience. This might have taken them to the thought about what may be next? Is this it? These are just some of the questions people may wonder about. On the other hand people that have ever had major trauma may and may just have a broad belief about what they think the afterlife will be.

Research on afterlife would benefit the medical fields in a great way. The nurses and other health care professionals would have a deeper understanding on what their patients that have chronic illnesses are feeling intrinsically. It would also give them a better chance of understanding different culture and know what the patient feels or does not feel comfortable with. This research can also benefit social worker and counselors and educators in connecting with their patients or students in a better way. Education about how traumatic experiences effect how people believe their afterlife will be can also be a factor of why they feel the way they do right now.

This research will also open many more doors for future research on sub topics regarding afterlife and other interesting factors that may rise from this. Since there is not much research on afterlife this can be the icebreaker.


Ambwani, S., Warren, C., Gleaves, D., Benito, A., and Fernandez, M. (2008). Culture,

Gender and Assesment of Fear of Fatness. European Journal of Psychological Assesment. 24,


Flynn, C. p., Kunkel, S. R. (1987). Deprivation, compensation, and conception of an

afterlife. Sociological Analysis, 48, 58-72.

Lester, D., Aldridge, M., Aspenberg, C., Boyle, K., Radsniak, P., and Waldron, C.

(2002). What Is the Afterlife like? Undergraduates Believes about the Afterlife. Omega Center

for the Study of Sluiced. 44, 113-126.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 20 November 2016

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