Cognitively Accessible Words Associated with God as Effective Lexical Primes

Authors

  • Michael B Kitchens Lebanon Valley College
  • Isabella M Lang Lebanon Valley College
  • Sydney E Petrasic Lebanon Valley College
  • Brian C Remper Lebanon Valley College
  • Brittany M Wilson Lebanon Valley College

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.22679

Keywords:

God, Free-Association, Religion, Priming, Word-Association

Abstract

Do the words used to prime the concept of God in psychology of religion research studies accurately reflect a mental representation of God? To examine this, two samples completed a free-association task, where they listed 10 words that came to mind when they thought about God (Studies 1a–1b). We found that more than half of the lexical primes used in previous studies were rarely or never produced (< 5 times) in the 2,610 free-association responses. Using a false memory paradigm, Study 2 revealed that the most frequent free-association words produced in Studies 1a and 1b more effectively primed the concept of God than a set of prime words used in previous religious priming studies that were not frequent free-association words in Studies 1a and 1b. This research advances the methodological practices in religious priming research and contributes to an understanding of people’s thoughts about God.

Author Biography

Isabella M Lang, Lebanon Valley College

Isabella M. Lang is a current student at Lebanon Valley College.

References

Abbott, A. (2013). Disputed results a fresh blow for social psychology. Nature, 497, 16. https://doi.org/10.1038/497016a DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/497016a

Aveyard, M. E. (2014). A call to honesty: Extending religious priming of moral behavior to Middle Eastern Muslims. PLoS ONE, 9(7): e99447. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0099447 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0099447

Bakhti, R. (2018). Religious versus reflective priming and susceptibility to the conjunction fallacy. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 32, 186–191. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3394 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3394

Bassett, J. F., & Williams, J. E. (2003). Protestant images of self, God, and Satan, as seen in adjective check list descriptions. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 13(2), 123–135. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327582IJPR1302_04 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327582IJPR1302_04

Bradley, D. F., Exline, J. J, & Uzdavines, A. (2015). The god of nonbelievers: Characteristics of a hypothetical god. Science, Religion and Culture, 2(3), 120–130. http://dx.doi.org/10.17582/journal.src/2015/2.3.120.130 DOI: https://doi.org/10.17582/journal.src/2015/2.3.120.130

Carpenter, T. P., & Marshall, M. A. (2009). An examination of religious priming and intrinsic religious motivation in the moral hypocrisy paradigm. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48(2), 386–393. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2009.01454.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2009.01454.x

Caruso, E. M., Shapira, O., & Landy, J. F. (2017). Show me the money: A systematic exploration of manipulations, moderators, and mechanisms of priming effects. Psychological Science, 28(8), 1148–1159. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617706161 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617706161

Cesario, J. (2014). Priming, replication, and the hardest science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(1), 40–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691613513470 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691613513470

Chan, K. Q., Tong, E. M. W., & Tan, Y. L. (2014). Taking a leap of faith: Reminders of God lead to greater risk taking. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(8), 901–909. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550614537309 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550614537309

Cohen, A. B., Shariff, A. F., & Hill, P. C. (2008). The accessibility of religious beliefs. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(6), 1408–1417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2008.06.001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2008.06.001

Davis, E. B., Moriarty, G. L., & Mauch, J. C. (2013). God images and God concepts: Definitions, development, and dynamics. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5(1), 51–60. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029289 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029289

Dijksterhuis, A., Aarts, H., Bargh, J. A., & van Knippenberg, A. (2000). On the relation between associative strength and automatic behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 36(5), 531–544. https://doi.org/10.1006/jesp.2000.1427 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/jesp.2000.1427

Dijksterhuis, A., Preston, J., Wegner, D. M., & Aarts, H. (2008). Effects of subliminal priming of self and God on self-attribution of authorship for events. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(1), 2–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2007.01.003 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2007.01.003

Dijksterhuis, A., & van Knippenberg, A. (1996). The knife that cuts both ways: Facilitated and inhibited access to traits as a result of stereotype activation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 32(3), 271–288. https://doi.org/10.1006/jesp.1996.0013 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1006/jesp.1996.0013

———. (1999). On the parameters of associative strength: Central tendency and variability as determinants of stereotype accessibility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(4), 527–536. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167299025004010 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167299025004010

Doyen, S., Klein, O., Pichon, C.-L., & Cleeremans, A. (2012). Behavioral priming: It’s all in the mind, but whose mind? PLoS ONE, 7(1): e29081. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029081 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029081

Fazio, R. H., Jackson, J. R., Dunton, B. C., & Williams, C. J. (1995). Variability in automatic activation as an unobtrusive measure of racial attitudes: A bona fide pipeline? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(6), 1013–1027. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.69.6.1013 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.69.6.1013

Fetterman, A. K., Evans, N. D., Exline, J. J., & Meier, B. P. (2021). What shall we call God? An exploration of metaphors coded from descriptions of God from a large U. S. undergraduate sample. PLoS ONE, 16(7): Article e0254626. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0254626 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0254626

Fincham, F. D., May, R. W., & Kamble, S. V. (2019). Are Hindu representations of the divine prototypically structured? Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 11(2), 101–110. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000166 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000166

Gervais, W. M., McKee, S. E., & Malik, S. (2020). Do religious primes increase risk taking? Evidence against “anticipating divine protection” in two preregistered direct replications of Kupor, Laurin, and Levav (2015). Psychological Science, 31(7), 858–864. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620922477 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620922477

Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Like a camera in the sky? Thinking about God increases public self-awareness and socially desirable responding. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 298–302. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2011.09.006 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2011.09.006

Gilder, T. S. E., & Heerey, E. A. (2018). The role of experimenter belief in social priming. Psychological Science, 29(3), 403–417. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617737128 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797617737128

Gomes, C. M., & McCullough, M. E. (2015). The effects of implicit religious primes on dictator game allocations: A preregistered replication experiment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(6): e94–e104. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000027 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000027

Gorsuch, R. L. (1968). The conceptualization of God as seen in adjective ratings. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 7(1), 56–64.

https://doi.org/10.2307/1385110 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1385110

Gruneau Brulin, J., Hill, P. C., Laurin, K., Mikulincer, M., & Granqvist, P. (2018). Religion vs. the welfare state – the importance of cultural context for religious schematicity and priming. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 10(3), 276–287. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000200 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000200

Haggard, M. C., Kaelen, R., Saroglou, V., Klein, O., & Rowatt, W. C. (2019). Religion’s role in the illusion of gender equality: Supraliminal and subliminal religious priming increases benevolent sexism. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 11(4), 392–398. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000196 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000196

Heiphetz, L., Landers, C. L., & Van Leeuwen, N. (2021). Does think mean the same thing as believe? Linguistic insights into religious cognition. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 13(3), 287–297. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000238 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000238

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2–3), 61–135. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X0999152X DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X0999152X

Higgins, E. T., Rholes, W. S., & Jones, C. R. (1977). Category accessibility and impression formation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 13(2), 141–154. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-1031(77)80007-3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-1031(77)80007-3

Hone, L. S. E., & McCullough, M. E. (2015). Does religious cognition really down-regulate hand grip endurance in men? A failure to replicate. Evolution and Human Behavior, 36, 1–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2014.08.007 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2014.08.007

Johnson, K. A., Okun, M. A., & Cohen, A. B. (2015). The mind of the Lord: Measuring authoritarian and benevolent God representations. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 7(3), 227–238. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000011 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000011

Johnson, K. A., Weinberger, A. B., Dyke, E., Porter, G. F., Kraemer, D. J. M., Grafman, J., Cohen, A. B., & Green, A. E. (2022). Differentiating personified, supernatural, and abstract views of God across three cognitive domains. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000460 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000460

Judd, C. M., Westfall, J., & Kenny, D. A. (2012). Treating stimuli as a random factor in social psychology: A new and comprehensive solution to a pervasive but largely ignored problem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(1), 54–69. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028347 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028347

Kapuscinski, A. N., & Masters, K. S. (2010). The current status of measures of spirituality: A critical review of scale development. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(4), 191–205. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020498 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020498

Kitchens, M. B. (2015). Thinking about God causes internal reflection in believers and unbelievers of God. Self and Identity, 14(6), 724–747. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2015.1072108 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2015.1072108

Kupor, D. M., Laurin, K., & Levav, J. (2015). Anticipating divine protection? Reminders of God can increase nonmoral risk taking. Psychological Science, 26(4), 374–384. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614563108 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614563108

Landau, M. J. (2018). Using metaphor to find meaning in life. Review of General Psychology, 22(1), 62–72. https://doi.org/10.1037/gpr0000105 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/gpr0000105

Laurin, K., Aaron, K. C., & Fritzsimons, G. M. (2011). Divergent effects of activating thoughts of God on self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(1), 4–21. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025971 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025971

Ledgerwood, A. (2014). Introduction to the special section on advancing our methods and practices. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 9(3), 275–277. https://doi.org/10.1177/174569161429448 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614529448

Lin, P. K. F., Ramsay, J. E., Chan, K. Q., Leow, Y. J., Lim, B. Y. R., & Tong, E. M. W. (2020). Self-transcendence through self-inhibition? God primes reduce self-accessibility. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 14(1), 31–42. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000312 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000312

Lin, P. K. F., Tong, E. M. W., Lee, L. N., Low, A. H. M., & Gomes, D. (2016). The prosocial impact of God concept priming on God believers. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 3(1), 93–103. https://doi.org/10.1037/cns0000077 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/cns0000077

Lindsay, D. S. (2015). Replication in psychological science. Psychological Science, 26(12), 1827–1832. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615616374 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615616374

Locke, E. A. (2015). Theory building, replication, and behavioral priming: Where do we need to go from here? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(3), 408–414. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614567231 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614567231

McCarthy, R. J., Skowronski, J. J., Verschuere, B., Meijer, E. H., Jim, A., Hoogesteyn, K., Orthey, R., Acar, O. A., Aczel, B., Bakos, B. E., Barbosa, F., Baskin, E., Bègue, L., Ben-Shakhar, G., Birt, A. R., Blatz, L., Charman, S. D., Claesen, A., Clay, S. L. … Yildiz, E. (2018). Registered replication report on Srull and Wyer (1979). Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 1(3), 321–336. https://doi.org/10.1177/2515245918777487 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/2515245918777487

McCullough, M. E., Carter, E. C., DeWall, C. N., & Corrales, C. M. (2012). Religious cognition down-regulates sexually selected, characteristically male behaviors in men, but not in women. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(5), 562–568. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2012.02.004 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2012.02.004

McIntosh, D. N. (1995). Religion-as-schema, with implications for the relation between religion and comping. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 5(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327582ijpr0501_1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327582ijpr0501_1

Meier, B. P., & Fetterman, A. K. (2022). Metaphors for God: God is high, bright, and human in implicit tasks. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 14(1), 43–50. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000324 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000324

Molden, D. C. (2014). Understanding priming effects in social psychology: An overview and integration. Social Cognition, 32, 243–249. https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.2014.32.supp.1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.2014.32.supp.243

Monroe, A. E., & Malle, B. F. (2010). From uncaused will to conscious choice: The need to study, not speculate about people’s folk concept of free will. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1(2), 211–224. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-009-0010-7 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-009-0010-7

Nelson, D. L., & McEvoy, C. L. (2000). What is this thing called frequency? Memory and Cognition, 28(4), 509–522. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03201241 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03201241

Nelson, D. L., McEvoy, C. L., & Dennis, S. (2000). What is free association and what does it measure? Memory & Cognition, 28(6), 887–899. https://doi.org/10.3758/bf03209337 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03209337

Nelson, D. L., McEvoy, C. L., & Schreiber, T. A. (1998). The University of South Florida word association, rhyme, and word fragment norms. [Data set]. http://w3.usf.edu/FreeAssociation/

O’Donnell, M., Nelson, L. D., Ackermann, E., Aczel, B., Akhtar, A., Aldrovandi, S., Alshaif, N., Andringa, R., Aveyard, M., Babincak, P., Balatekin, N., Baldwin, S. A., Banik, G., Baskin, E., Bell, R., Bialobrzeska, O., Birt, A. R., Boot, W. R., Braithwaite, S. R., Briggs, J. C. … Zrubka, M. (2018). Registered replication report: Dijksterhuis and van Knippenberg (1998). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 268–294. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691618755704 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691618755704

Preston, J. L., & Ritter, R. S. (2013). Different effects of religion and God on prosociality with the ingroup and outgroup. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(11), 1471–1483. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167213499937 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167213499937

Ramsay, J. E., Tong, E. M. W., Pang, J. S., & Chowdhury, A. (2016). A puzzle unsolved: Failure to observe different effects of God and religion primes on intergroup attitudes. PLoS ONE, 11(1): Article e0147178. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147178 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147178

Ritter, R. S., & Preston, J. L. (2013). Representations of religious words: Insights for religious priming research. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 52(3), 494–507. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24644033 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jssr.12042

Roediger, H. L., & McDermott, K. B., (1995). Creating false memories: Remembering words not presented in lists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21(4), 803–814. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.21.4.803 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.21.4.803

Rounding, K., Lee, A., Jacobson, J. A., & Ji, L. J. (2012). Religion replenishes self-control. Psychological Science, 23(6), 635–642. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611431987 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611431987

Sagioglou, C. & Forstmann, M. (2013). Activating Christian religious concepts increases intolerance and judgment certainty. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49(5), 933–939. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2013.05.003 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2013.05.003

Shah, A. K., Zhao, J., Mullainathan, S., & Shafir, E. (2018). Money in the mental lives of the poor. Social Cognition, 36(1), 4–19. https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.2018.36.1.4 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.2018.36.1.4

Shariff, A. F., & Norenzayan, A. (2007). God is watching you: Priming God concepts increases prosocial behavior in an anonymous economic game. Psychological Science, 18(9), 803–809. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01983.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01983.x

Shariff, A. F., Willard, A. K., Andersen, T., & Norenzayan, A. (2016). Religious priming: A meta-analysis with a focus on prosociality. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 20(1), 27–48. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868314568811 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868314568811

Shono, Y., Ames, S. L., & Stacy, A. W. (2016). Evaluation of internal validity using modern test theory: Application to word association. Psychological Assessment, 28(2), 194–204. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000175 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000175

Smith, E. R. (2000). Research design. In H. T. Reis & C. M. Judd (Eds.). Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 17–39). Cambridge University Press.

Srull, T. K., & Wyer, R. S. (1979). The role of category accessibility in the interpretation of information about persons: Some determinants and implications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(10), 1660–1672. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.37.10.1660 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.37.10.1660

Turpin, H. D., & Stanford, M. (2018–2021). Cognitively informed ethnography: Using mixed methods to capture the complexity of religious phenomena in two ecologically valid settings. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 6(1–2), 107–129. https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.38498 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.38498

Van Elk, M., Matzke, D., Gronau, Q. F., Guan, M., Vandekerckhove, J., & Wagenmakders, E-J. (2015). Meta-analyses are no substitution for registered replications: A skeptical perspective on religious priming. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: Article 1365. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01365 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01365

Walker, W. L., Diliberto-Macaluso, K. A., & Altarriba, J. (2011). Priming and assimilation effects in the automatic activation of religious schema. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 3(4), 308–319. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033960 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022960

Watanabe, S., & Laurent, S. M. (2018–2021). 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), 22–46. https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.38411 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.38411

Williams, G. A., Guichard, A. C., & An, J. (2017). The effects of name and religious priming on ratings of a well-known political figure, President Barack Obama. PLoS ONE, 12(6): e0180676. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180676 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180676

Published

2022-11-16

How to Cite

Kitchens, M. B., Lang, I. M., Petrasic, S. E., Remper, B. C., & Wilson, B. M. (2022). Cognitively Accessible Words Associated with God as Effective Lexical Primes. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 8(2), 78–101. https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.22679

Issue

Section

Articles