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

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

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Leiden University, Cognitive Psychology Unit & Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden, The Netherlands.


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.

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