„Spirituality“ in Osgood‘s Semantic Differential

In our study, we have used two versions of semantic differentials: Osgood‘s (1962) semantic differential that had been used previously in a number of international studies and consists of 18 pairs of adjectives. This instrument aims at the assessment of three factors: Evaluation, Potency and Activity. Here we use it for better understanding „Religion“ and „Spirituality.“ Besides Osgood‘s instrument, we have included our own contextual semantic differential that consists of 30 pairs of adjectives (for details and results, see our 2016 publication).

The figure presents our results for „spirituality“ and “religion” in Osgood‘s semantic differential:

The 18 polar adjectives fall, according to Osgood (1962), in three factors of 6 adjectives each: 1. Evaluation, 2. Potency and 3. Activity. Obviously, on the factor Evaluation we see the greatest difference between „Religion“ and „Spirituality,“ while for Potency and Activity of „Religion“ and „Spirituality,“ ratings are rather close to each other. And it is also obvious that the positive evaluation of “spirituality” is due to the negative evaluation of “religion.”

More detailed analyses with both semantic differentials are presented in: Streib, H., Keller, B., Klein, C., & Hood, R. W. (2016). Semantic Differentials Open New Perspectives on the Semantic Field of "Spirituality" and "Religion". In H. Streib & R. W. Hood (Eds.), Semantics and Psychology of "Spirituality". A Cross-cultural Analysis (pp. 87-103). Cham, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

Publications / Articles


Streib, H. & Hood, R. W. (Eds.) (2016). Semantics and Psychology of "Spirituality". A Cross-cultural Analysis. Cham, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer International Publishing Switzerland.


Streib, H. & Keller, B. (2015). Was bedeutet Spiritualität? Befunde, Analysen und Fallstudien aus Deutschland. Research in Contemporary Religion (RCR) - Band 20, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Keller, B. & Streib, H. (2013) Faith Development, Religious Styles and Biographical Narratives: Methodological Perspectives. Journal of Empirical Theology 26, 1-21.

Keller, Barbara, Klein, Constantin, Anne, Swhajor, Christopher F., Silver, Ralph W., Hood, and Streib, Heinz. "The Semantics of 'Spirituality' and Related Self-identifications: A Comparative Study in Germany and the USA". Archive for the Psychology of Religion. (PDF)

Streib, Heinz & Hood, Ralph W. (2011). “"Spirituality" as Privatized Experience-Oriented Religion: Empirical and Conceptual Perspectives”. Implicit Religion 14.4: 433 - 453. (PDF)

Streib, H. (2008). More Spiritual than Religious: Changes in the Religious Field Require New Approaches (PDF)