Religion and action control: Faith-specific modulation of the Simon effect but not Stop-Signal performance

Cognition. 2011 Aug;120(2):177-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.04.003. Epub 2011 May 4.


Previous findings suggest that religion has a specific impact on attentional processes. Here we show that religion also affects action control. Experiment 1 compared Dutch Calvinists and Dutch atheists, matched for age, sex, intelligence, education, and cultural and socio-economic background, and Experiment 2 compared Italian Catholics with matched Italian seculars. As expected, Calvinists showed a smaller and Catholics a larger Simon effect than nonbelievers, while performance of the groups was comparable in the Stop-Signal task. This pattern suggests that religions emphasizing individualism or collectivism affects action control in specific ways, presumably by inducing chronic biases towards a more "exclusive" or "inclusive" style of decision-making. Interestingly, there was no evidence that religious practice affects inhibitory skills.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Culture
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Religion*