The Role of Ideological Beliefs and Tolerance for Uncertainty in Seeking Esoteric Services



Objective. Assessing the relationship between the use of esoteric services, tolerance for uncertainty and beliefs unpredictability and determinism.
Background. Esoteric practices today represent a significant market sector worldwide and in Russia. At the same time, predictors of use of such services are still poorly studied. Most psychological research has focused on beliefs in the paranormal or supernatural, while much less attention has been paid to associated behavioral practices.
Study design. Cross-sectional survey study.
Participants. Adult population of Russia (N = 1498, 47% males). A quota sample of an online panel was used to represent the adult population of Russia in terms of gender and age composition and representation of the urban and rural population. Mean age 41,6 years old (SD = 12,72).
Measurements. Russian-language versions of tolerance to uncertainty (MSTAT-I) and belief in freedom/determinism (FAD-Plus) scales, assessment of socio-demographic and behavioral parameters using survey methods.
Results. Seeking esoteric services is associated with a range of beliefs about determinism and unpredictability and is more common among women and people with high religiosity. Contrary to the hypothesis put forward, no relationship was found between seeking esoteric services and tolerance of uncertainty.
Conclusions. Seeking esoteric services is closely related to beliefs about the world: belief in determinism (both fatalistic and scientific) may be a facilitator of the use of such services, while beliefs in unpredictability and freedom are negatively associated with the use of such services.

General Information

Keywords: tolerance to uncertainty; beliefs; religiosity; esoteric practices

Journal rubric: Empirical Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Science Foundation (RSF), project number 22-28-01792,

Received: 01.10.2023


For citation: Antonova N.A., Eritsyan K.Y., Usacheva N.M. The Role of Ideological Beliefs and Tolerance for Uncertainty in Seeking Esoteric Services. Sotsial'naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social Psychology and Society, 2023. Vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 194–209. DOI: 10.17759/sps.2023140412. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Antonova N.A. Ustanovki studentov k polucheniyu pomoshchi v sfere psikhicheskogo zdorov'ya [Students' attitudes towards receiving mental health help]. Izvestiya Rossiiskogo gosudarstvennogo pedagogicheskogo universiteta im. A.I. Gertsena = Proceedings of the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, 2020, no. 195, pp. 213–222. DOI:10.33910/1992-6464-2020-195-213-222 (In Russ.).
  2. Asmolov A.G. Psikhologiya sovremennosti: vyzovy neopredelennosti, slozhnosti i raznoobraziya. [The psychology of modernity: the challenges of uncertainty, complexity and diversity]. Psikhologicheskie issledovaniya = Psychological researches, 2015. Vol. 8, no. 40, pp. 1–11. DOI:10.54359/ps.v8i40.550 (In Russ.).
  3. Bayramova E.E., Enikolopov S.N. Magicheskoe myshlenie i vera v magiyu v strukture psikhologicheskikh zashchit i koping-strategii [Magical thinking and belief in magic in the structure of psychological defenses and coping strategies]. Psikhologiya. Psikhofiziologiya = Psychology. Psychophysiology, 2021. Vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 5–13. DOI:10.14529/jpps210401 (In Russ.).
  4. Grishina E.A. Okkul'tnye uslugi v potrebitel'skom prostranstve sovremennogo rossiiskogo obshchestva [Occult services in the consumer space of modern russian society]. Vestnik RGGU. Ser. Filosofiya. Sotsiologiya. Iskusstvovedenie = Bulletin of the Russian state university for the humanities. Series: Philosophy. Sociology. Art history, 2020, no. 4, pp. 94–108. DOI:10.28995/2073-6401-2019-4-94-108 (In Russ.).
  5. Leontiev D.A. Vyzov neopredelennosti kak tsentral'naya problema psikhologii lichnosti [The challenge of uncertainty as a central problem of personality psychology]. Psikhologicheskie issledovaniya = Psychological Researches, 2015. Vol. 8, no. 40, pp. 2. DOI:10.54359/ps.v8i40.555 (In Russ.).
  6. Leontiev D.A., Mospan A.N. Sovladanie s neopredelennost'yu kak konstruirovanie sub"ektivnoi opredelennosti: variatsii i prediktory [Coping with uncertainty as the construction of subjective certainty: variations and predictors]. Materialy Shestoi Mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii ”Psikhologiya stressa i sovladayushchego povedeniya: ustoichivost' i izmenchivost' otnoshenii, lichnosti, gruppy v epokhu neopredelennosti” (g. Kostroma, 22–24 sentyabrya 2022 goda) [Proceedings of the sixth International Scientific Conference “Psychology of stress and coping behavior: stability and variability of relationships, individuals, groups in an era of uncertainty”]. Kostroma: Kostromskoi gosudarstvennyi universitet im. N.A. Nekrasova, 2022, pp. 253–258. (In Russ.).
  7. Mospan A.N., Leontiev D.A. Aprobatsiya i validizatsiya metodiki very v svobodu/determinizm (FAD-Plus) na rossiiskoi vyborke [Approbation and validation of the freedom/determinism beliefs inventory]. Psikhologiya. Zhurnal Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki = Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics, 2021. Vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 109–128. DOI:10.17323/1813-8918-2021-1-109-128 (In Russ.).
  8. Nelyubina A.S. Rol' obydennykh predstavlenii v formirovanii vnutrennei kartiny bolezni. Avtoref. diss. … kand. psikhol. nauk [The role of everyday perceptions in the formation of the internal picture of the disease. PhD (Psychology) Thesis]. Moscow, 2009. 27 p. (In Russ.).
  9. Osin E.N. Faktornaya struktura russkoyazychnoi versii shkaly obshchei tolerantnosti k neopredelennosti D. Makleina [Elektronnyi resurs] [Factor structure of the Russian-language version of the D. McLane General Tolerance to Uncertainty Scale]. Psikhologicheskaya diagnostika = Psychological Diagnosis, 2010, no. 2, pp. 65–86. URL: (Accessed 01.10.2023). (In Russ.).
  10. Bader C.D., Baker J.O., Molle A. Countervailing forces: Religiosity and paranormal belief in Italy. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2012. Vol. 51, no. 4, pp. 705–720. DOI:10.2307/23353828
  11. Baker J.O., Bader C.D., Mencken F.C. A bounded affinity theory of religion and the paranormal. Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review, 2016. Vol. 77, no. 4, pp. 334–358. DOI:10.1093/socrel/srw040
  12. Budner S. Intolerance of ambiguity as a personality variable. Journal of personality, 1962. Vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 29–50. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1962.tb02303.x
  13. Carey J.M., Paulhus D.L. Worldview implications of believing in free will and/or determinism: Politics, morality, and punitiveness. Journal of personality, 2013. Vol. 81, no. 2, pp. 130–141. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2012.00799.x
  14. Carleton R.N., Mulvogue M.K., Thibodeau M.A., McCabe R.E., Antony M.M., Asmundson G.J. Increasingly certain about uncertainty: Intolerance of uncertainty across anxiety and depression. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2012. Vol. 26, pp. 468–479. DOI:10.1016/j.janxdis.2012.01.011
  15. Das A., Sharma M.K., Kashyap H., Gupta S. Fixating on the future: An overview of increased astrology use. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 2022. Vol. 68, no. 5, pp. 925–932. DOI:10.1177/00207640221094155
  16. Dean C.E., Akhtar S., Gale T.M., Irvine K., Grohmann D., Laws K.R. Paranormal beliefs and cognitive function: A systematic review and assessment of study quality across four decades of research. Plos one, 2022. Vol. 17, no. 5, pp. e0267360. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0267360
  17. Einstein D.A. Extension of the transdiagnostic model to focus on intolerance of uncertainty: A review of the literature and implications for treatment. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 2014. Vol. 21, pp. 280–300. DOI:10.1111/cpsp.12077
  18. Fjær E.L., Landet E.R., McNamara C.L., Eikemo T.A. The use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Europe. BMC complementary medicine and therapies, 2020. Vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 1–9. DOI:10.1186/s12906-020-02903-w
  19. Freeston M., Tiplady A., Mawn L., Bottesi G., Thwaites S. Towards a model of uncertainty distress in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19). PsyArXiv, 2020. Vol. 13, pp. e31. DOI:10.31234/
  20. Furnham A., Marks J. Tolerance of ambiguity: A review of the recent literature. Psychology, 2013. Vol. 4, no. 09, pp. 717–728. DOI:10.4236/psych.2013.49102
  21. Glendinning T. Religious involvement, conventional Christian, and unconventional nonmaterialist beliefs. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2006. Vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 585–595. DOI:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2006.00329.x
  22. Hillen M.A., Gutheil C.M., Strout T.D., Smets E.M., Han P.K. Tolerance of uncertainty: Conceptual analysis, integrative model, and implications for healthcare. Social Science & Medicine, 2017. Vol. 180, pp. 62–75. DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.024
  23. Holaway R.M., Heimberg R.G., Coles M.E. A comparison of intolerance of uncertainty in analogue obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2006. Vol. 20, pp. 158–174. DOI:10.1016/j.janxdis.2005.01.002
  24. Irwin H.J. The Psychology of paranormal Belief: A researcher’s Handbook. Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2009. 213 p.
  25. Kaplan A.O. Research on the pseudo-scientific beliefs of pre-service science teachers: A sample from astronomy-astrology. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 2014. Vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 381–393. DOI:10.33225/jbse/14.13.381
  26. Lewandowsky S., Oberauer K. Motivated rejection of science. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2016. Vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 217–222. DOI:10.1177/0963721416654436
  27. McLain D.L. The MSTAT-I: A new measure of an individual's tolerance for ambiguity. Educational and psychological measurement, 1993. Vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 183–189. DOI:10.1177/0013164493053001020
  28. Mencken F.C., Bader C.D., Kim Y.J. Round trip to hell in a flying saucer: The relationship between conventional Christian and paranormal beliefs in the United States. Sociology of Religion, 2009. Vol. 70, no. 1, pp. 65–85. DOI:10.1093/socrel/srp013
  29. Paulhus D.L., Carey J.M. The FAD–Plus: Measuring lay beliefs regarding free will and related constructs. Journal of personality assessment, 2011. Vol. 93, no. 1, pp. 96–104. DOI:10.1080/00223891.2010.528483
  30. Pelissari R., Oliveira M.C., Abackerli A.J., Ben‐Amor S., Assumpção M.R.P. Techniques to model uncertain input data of multi‐criteria decision‐making problems: a literature review. International Transactions in Operational Research, 2021. Vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 523–559. DOI:10.1111/itor.12598
  31. Rettie H., Daniels J. Coping and tolerance of uncertainty: Predictors and mediators of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. American Psychologist, 2021. Vol. 76, no. 3, pp. 427. DOI:10.1037/amp0000710
  32. Temcharoenkit S., Johnson D.A. Factors influencing attitudes toward astrology and making relationship decisions among Thai adults. Scholar: Human Sciences, 2021. Vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 15–27. URL: (Accessed 01.10.2023).
  33. The Supernatural in Society, Culture, and History. In Waskul D.D., Eaton M. (eds.). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2018. 262 p.

Information About the Authors

Natalia A. Antonova, PhD in Psychology, Assistant Professor at Psychology Institute, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Ksenia Y. Eritsyan, PhD in Psychology, Researcher at Psychology Institute, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Nina M. Usacheva, Researcher at Psychology Institute, Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St.Petersburg, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 132
Previous month: 81
Current month: 47


Total: 59
Previous month: 39
Current month: 20