Psychological and Interpersonal Implications of Believing that Everything is One: Identity, Personality, Values, and Worldviews
For thousands of years, people from a variety of philosophical, religious, spiritual, and scientific perspectives have believed in the fundamental unity of all that exists, and this belief appears to be increasingly prevalent in Western cultures. The present research was the first investigation of the psychological and interpersonal implications of believing in oneness. Self-report measures were developed to assess three distinct variants of the belief in oneness – belief in the fundamental oneness of everything, of all living things, and of humanity – and studies examined how believing in oneness is associated with people’s self-views, attitudes, personality, emotions, and behavior. Using both correlational and experimental approaches, the findings supported the hypothesis that believing in oneness is associated with feeling greater connection and concern for people, nonhuman animals, and the environment, and in being particularly concerned for people and things beyond one’s immediate circle of friends and family. The belief is also associated with experiences in which everything is perceived to be one, and with certain spiritual and esoteric beliefs. Although the three variations of belief in oneness were highly correlated and related to other constructs similarly, they showed evidence of explaining unique variance in conceptually relevant variables. Belief in the oneness of humanity, but not belief in the oneness of living things, uniquely explained variance in prosociality, empathic concern, and compassion for others. In contrast, belief in the oneness of living things, but not belief in oneness of humanity, uniquely explained variance in beliefs and concerns regarding the well-being of nonhuman animals and the environment. The belief in oneness is a meaningful existential belief that is endorsed to varying degrees by a nontrivial portion of the population and that has numerous implications for people’s personal well-being and interactions with people, animals, and the natural world.
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