Skip to content

The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, created by Dr. Lynn G. Underwood, is being used in research, organizational, and clinical settings, to explore ordinary spiritual experiences, such as awe, deep inner peace, giving and receiving compassionate love, a sense of transcendent connection, and feeling thankful for blessings, and their role in daily life.

This is the central informational site regarding the scale to inform its use for clinicians, researchers, and other professionals. For registration and permission to use the scale or for further information, contact Lynn Underwood lynn[at] The authoritative original version of the scale for research use can be downloaded here. The checklist version of the scale which contains alternative inline wordings can be found here.  Alternative inline wordings as seen in the checklist version can be used in the frequency version too.

Registration is required to use the scale, which is free for non-profit use.

A book was published in 2013 to enable people to use the scale for professional and personal use: Spiritual Connection in Daily Life (2013) It contains useful information for researchers too, as it contains details of interviews with people about their experiences as well as research summaries with citations. A link to this inexpensive book and ways to purchase it can be found here. The book was designed primarily for use in personal and professional settings, and to enable the questions to be used as a communication tool. It was published as a North American e-book and then subsequently as an international e-book in 2016.

This book has been substantially revised and issued as an audiobook, read by Lynn (2020). The audiobook purchase includes a PDF which can serve as a journal for you to write about your experiences and a bibliography of the research studies and other references. The audiobook has significant changes from the print and e-book editions, re-ordered to prioritize personal exploration and communication in personal and professional settings, with the quantitative version and research results added in the appendices. The book can be purchased through Amazon/Audible here. Other ways to purchase the audiobook can be found here . A link to directly purchase the new audiobook (2020) is here: //  

Lynn was interviewed on the DSES and the book for the Australian ABC public radio program, The Spirit of Things. This is available as a podcast on iTunes. To listen to or download the program:

Key Underwood articles on 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. It is the best article to start with.

“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 für Religionspsychologie, 28:1 (2006), 181-218. This article, linked here, underwood archiv article 2006 copy, provides the conceptual framework for the DSES, provides scoring guidelines, and includes accurate English and Spanish versions of the scale.

“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. J Teresi’s role in this paper was as the statistician. This paper has been cited over 1400 times in peer-reviewed literature.

NEW: A chapter on the scale was published in 2021 in French: “Ordinary Spiritual Experiences: Positive Effects on Resilience, Burnout, and Addictions” Underwood LG & Vagnini K, in Spirituality and Psychology: Foundations, Concepts and Applications, Roussiau, Nicolas (ed) Dunod 2021. You can download an English language preprint here: EnglshPreprintDSESandResiliencyinFrenchTextbook This chapter is designed for practicing psychologists and summarizes many of the newer studies focusing on the links of the DSES to outcomes such as improved resiliency, post-traumatic growth, and less substance abuse. It also discusses potential ways to enhance ordinary spiritual experiences as articulated in the DSES, using various interventions. It also highlights the utility of the checklist version and use of the DSES for communication as described in more detail in the Spiritual Connection book. An abbreviated paper focusing on a focused summary of studies was subsequently published in a journal in 2022: Underwood, Lynn G., and Kaitlyn M. Vagnini 2022. The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale: Empirical Relationships to Resiliency-Related Outcomes, Addictions, and Interventions.

More on 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 many languages and the scale has been effectively used in many cultures. The scale has been used in over 400 published studies and the original paper has been cited in over 1400 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 frequency 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 6-item version was developed ad-hoc rather than psychometrically derived from the original 16 items, and the six items are not ideal in many ways, as the wording is not exactly identical and some items are double-barreled and it does not include the introductory sentences. Of these two, the 16-item scale is much preferred, although in many studies the two scales show a high correlation in performance.

Factor analysis of the scale continues as research results emerge. Most studies show the scale loading on one major factor, although different populations can show different factor loadings. The Cronbach’s Alpha for the scale is usually above 0.9. The scale performs in both a state-like as well as a trait-like manner, lending it to examinations of change over time.

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. Also, it is crucial to provide the introductory sentence re substitution language or inline alternatives.  Contact Lynn if you have questions and you want to adapt the language for your population, and she can help you to maintain connection with the original construct.

The scale has been used effectively in adolescents. It has also been used in younger children from 8-12, and for this group subgroups of the items can be used, or oral administration with some explanation of the items may be helpful.


For advice on scoring see