The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, created by Dr. Lynn Underwood, is being used in many studies to investigate ordinary spiritual experiences, such as awe, deep inner peace and giving and receiving compassionate love, and feeling thankful for blessings, and their role in daily life. This is the central information site regarding the scale and its use. For registration and permission to use the scale or for further information, contact Lynn Underwood lynnunderwood[at]researchintegration.org. The authoritative version of the scale can be downloaded here. Dr Underwood has recently published Spiritual Connection in Daily Life: 16 Little Questions That Can Make a Big Difference. It guides the reader as they use the 16 Daily Spiritual Experience Scale questions for personal growth, for inter-personal and organizational communication, and in therapeutic contexts.
New: November 2014: Updates to list of published DSES studies.
Key articles about the DSES
“The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale: Overview and Results,” provides an overview of the scale itself, describes why it has proven useful. The article cites major studies and discusses a number of the key studies using the scale. Religions 2:1 (2011), 29-50.
“Ordinary Spiritual Experience: Qualitative Research, Interpretive Guidelines, and Population Distribution for the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale,” is designed to help scholars understand, use and score the DSES. Archive for the Psychology of Religion/Archiv fuer Religionspsychologie, 28:1 (2006), 181-218. This article provides the conceptual framework for the DSES, provides scoring guidelines, and includes accurate English and Spanish versions of the scale. Download a prepublication copy.
“The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale: Development, Theoretical Description, Reliability, Exploratory Factor Analysis, and Preliminary Construct Validity Using Health-Related Data”, Underwood, LG, and Teresi, JA, Annals of Behavioral Medicine 24:1 (2002), 22-33. This article describes psychometric qualities of the scale and some of its applications.
Introduction to the DSES
The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES) is a 16-item self-report measure designed to assess ordinary experiences of connection with the transcendent in daily life. It includes constructs such as awe, gratitude, mercy, sense of connection with the transcendent and compassionate love. It also includes measures of awareness of discernment/inspiration and a sense of deep inner peace.
Originally developed for use in health studies, it has been increasingly used more widely in the social sciences, for program evaluation, and for examining changes in spiritual experiences over time. Also it has been used in counseling, addiction treatment settings, and religious organizations. It has been included in longitudinal health studies and in the U.S. General Social Survey that established random-sample population norms for the scale. It has publications on its psychometric validity in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and Mandarin Chinese. Translations have been made into over forty languages including Hindi, Hebrew and Arabic and the scale has been effectively used in a variety of cultures. The scale has been used in over 200 published studies and the original paper has been cited in over 500 published papers.
The DSES was developed using extensive qualitative testing in a variety of groups, which has helped its capacity to be useful in a variety of settings. It was constructed to reflect an overlapping circle model of spirituality/religiousness and contains items that are more specifically theistic in nature, as well as items to tap the spiritual experience of those who are not comfortable with theistic language.
There are two major forms of the scale currently in use. One is the full 16-item scale. The second is a 6-item scale that was adapted for use in the Brief Multidimensional Measure for Religiousness and Spirituality (Idler et al, 2003). The six items are not ideal in many ways, as the wording is not identical and some items are double-barreled. Of these two, the 16-item scale is much preferred, although in many studies the two scales show a high correlation in performance.
Also, various researchers have used subsets of the 16-item scale for various purposes. At this stage in the scale’s development this can be appropriate, as long as the rationale is sound. Two of the items, for example, have been used as a compassionate love subscale, and there are other possible subgroupings of items.
Factor analysis of the scale continues as research results emerge. Many studies show the scale loading on one major factor, with the two compassionate love items loading possibly on another factor. The Chronbach’s Alpha for the scale is consistently above 0.9. The scale tends to perform in a more state-like than trait-like manner, lending it to examinations of change over time.
Some have changed the wording of the scale items substantively and call their versions a scale of Daily Spiritual Experiences. Be cautious regarding this. The wording of this scale is critical to its effectiveness and ability to tap the construct of interest. Changes in wording can strongly affect performance.
The scale has been used effectively in adolescents. It has also been used in younger children from 9-12, and for this group, subgroups of the items can be used, or oral administration with some explanation of the items may be helpful.
Translations. There have been over 40 translations. Translation needs to be done carefully as subtlety and simplicity of language is particularly important and cultural sensitivity is needed. See Underwood (2006) for further advice on translating. Lynn is coordinating information on translations and assists with back translations to assure accurate articulation of the underlying construct. Please contact Dr. Underwood regarding usage and translations.