Past Its Prime? A Methodological Overview and Critique of Religious Priming Research in Social Psychology


  • Shoko Watanabe University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Sean M. Laurent University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



priming, religious cognition, experimental psychology, social psychology, reproducibility


Social psychologists have frequently used priming methodologies to explore how religion can impact behaviour. Despite this, no consensus currently exists on whether religious priming effects are replicable or consistently observed across a range of spiritual beliefs. Moreover, mixed evidence highlights possible methodological shortcomings within the priming literature as well as theoretical ambiguity regarding the contents of different primes. The current article examines four types of religious priming methodologies that are frequently used in social-psychological research (explicit, implicit, subliminal, and contextual) and critically inspects the current landscape of the religious priming literature. We highlight theoretical issues and suggest methodological improvements that should facilitate a clearer understanding of when and how religion influences human behaviour.

Author Biographies

Shoko Watanabe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Department of Psychology

Graduate Research Assistant

Sean M. Laurent, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Department of Psychology

Assistant Professor


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How to Cite

Watanabe, S. ., & Laurent, S. M. (2021). Past Its Prime? A Methodological Overview and Critique of Religious Priming Research in Social Psychology. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 6(1-2), 31–55 .