The nonconscious influence of religious symbols in motivated performance situations

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2005 Sep;31(9):1203-16. doi: 10.1177/0146167205274448.


Anthropological, sociological, and psychological theories suggest that religious symbols should influence motivational processes during performance of goal-relevant tasks. In two experiments, positive and negative religious (Christian) symbols were presented outside of participants' conscious awareness. These symbols influenced cardiovascular responses consistent with challenge and threat states during a subsequent speech task, particularly when the speech topic concerned participants' mortality, and only for Christian participants; similar images lacking Christian meaning were not influential. Results suggested that these effects were due to the learned meaning of the symbols and point to the importance of religion as a coping resource.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arousal / physiology
  • California
  • Christianity
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Subliminal Stimulation
  • Symbolism*