Thinking of God moves attention

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Jan;48(2):627-30. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.09.029. Epub 2009 Oct 3.


The concepts of God and Devil are well known across many cultures and religions, and often involve spatial metaphors, but it is not well known if our mental representations of these concepts affect visual cognition. To examine if exposure to divine concepts produces shifts of attention, participants completed a target detection task in which they were first presented with God- and Devil-related words. We found faster RTs when targets appeared at compatible locations with the concepts of God (up/right locations) or Devil (down/left locations), and also found that these results do not vary by participants' religiosity. These results indicate that metaphors associated with the divine have strong spatial components that can produce shifts of attention, and add to the growing evidence for an extremely robust connection between internal spatial representations and where attention is allocated in the external environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Religion*
  • Students
  • Thinking / physiology*
  • Vocabulary