Causal relationship between religiosity and value priorities: Cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations

Stephanie W. Y. CHAN, Wilfred W. F. LAU, C. Harry HUI, Esther Yuet Ying LAU, Shu-fai CHEUNG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Religiosity and values are correlated. However, it is unclear whether it is because certain values predispose one to becoming and staying religious or whether religious persons are more likely to adopt those values. To clarify this ambiguity in directionality, we collected cross-sectional and longitudinal data from a Chinese sample (N = 3,248). We replicated previous findings that Christians and nonbelievers differ on all 10 values in Schwartz's model. Longitudinal analyses further showed that religious affiliation predicted increase in tradition and decline in self-direction, hedonism, and security about three years later. Making finer distinction within the Christian subsample, we showed that vertical faith maturity (relationship with the transcendence) was associated with all values except security, whereas horizontal faith maturity (charity toward fellow human beings) was associated with 7 values. Furthermore, longitudinal analyses revealed that vertical and horizontal faith maturity predicted 2-year changes in some values and in different directions: Vertical faith maturity predicted higher security and lower self-direction around two years later; horizontal faith maturity predicted higher self-direction and lower security around two years later. Evidence of relationship also goes in the opposite direction: Benevolence predicted positive changes in both vertical and horizontal faith maturity. Future assertions on the predictions of directional relationships between religiosity and values should specify the particular value and religiosity dimension. Copyright © 2018 American Psychological Association.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-87
JournalPsychology of Religion and Spirituality
Issue number1
Early online dateMar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020



Chan, S. W. Y., Lau, W. W. F., Hui, C. H., Lau, E. Y. Y., & Cheung, S.-F. (2020). Causal relationship between religiosity and value priorities: Cross-sectional and longitudinal investigations. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 12(1), 77-87. doi: 10.1037/rel0000175


  • Value
  • Religion–religiosity
  • Value change
  • Religiosity change