Are Religious Affections Positive or Negative?—The Role of Religious Affections on Executive Control


The present study investigated the influence of religious affections on executive control compared with positive and negative emotions using emotional priming paradigm and the letter flanker task. 58 participants (Tibetan Buddhists, 28 males and 30 females) were required to identify the central target letter after primed by religious, positive, or negative pictures. There was a space (loose) or no space (close) between neighboring letters. The results revealed that in close condition both religious affections-prime and negative emotional-prime reduced the flanker effect in response accuracy (ACC) compared to positive emotional-prime for female participants. It means that religious affections do not function as positive emotions on executive control. Moreover, for females, when primed by religious pictures, the ACC flanker effect was negatively related to the arousal of religious pictures, but when primed by negative pictures, the flanker effect in response time was positively related to the valence of negative pictures. The correlation analysis indicates that religious affections and negative emotions may influence executive control in different ways. These findings suggest that religious affections exert their special influence on executive control, not simply positive or negative.

Share and Cite:

Liu, H. & Zhang, Q. (2013). Are Religious Affections Positive or Negative?—The Role of Religious Affections on Executive Control. Psychology, 4, 970-974. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.412140.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1252-1265.
[2] Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., & Tice, D. M. (2007). The strength model of self-control. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 351-355.
[3] Blaine, B., & Crocker, J. (1995). Religiousness, race, and psychological well-being: Exploring social psychological mediators. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1031-1041.
[4] Cahn, B. R., & Polich, J. (2013). Meditation States and Traits: EEG, ERP, and Neuroimaging Studies. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1, 48-96.
[5] Chan, D., & Woollacott, M. (2007). Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: Is the efficiency of executive or orienttation networks improved? Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13, 651-657.
[6] Clark, K. M., Friedman, H. S., & Martin, L. R. (1999). A longitudinal study of religiosity and mortality risk. Journal of Health Psychology, 4, 381-391.
[7] Edwards, J. (1746). Religious affections. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
[8] Fenske, M. J., & Eastwood, J. D. (2003). Modulation of focused attention by faces expressing emotion: Evidence from Flanker tasks. Emotion, 3, 327-343.
[9] Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300-319.
[10] Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). Positive emotions. In T. J. Mayne, & G. A. Bonnano (Eds.), Emotion: Current issue and future developments (pp. 123-151). New York: Guilford Press.
[11] Fredrickson, B. L., & Branigan, C. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Cognition & Emotion, 19, 313-332.
[12] Hall, J. A. (1978). Gender effects in decoding nonverbal cues. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 845-857.
[13] Hofer, A., Siedentopf, C. M., Ischebeck, A., Rettenbacher, M. A., Verius, M., Felber, S., et al. (2006). Gender differences in regional cerebral activity during the perception of emotion: A functional MRI study. NeuroImage, 32, 854-862.
[14] Hofmann, W., Schmeichel, B. J., & Baddeley, A. D. (2012). Executive functions and self-regulation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 174-180.
[15] Idler, E. L. (1987). Religious involvement and the health of the elderly: Some hypotheses and an initial test. Social Forces, 66, 227-238.
[16] Knudsen, E. I. (2007) Fundamental components of attention. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 30, 57-78.
[17] Koenig, H. G., Moberg, D. O., & Kvale, J. N. (1988). Religious activities and attitudes of older adults in a geriatric assessment clinic. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 36, 362-374.
[18] Koch, K., Pauly, K., Kellermann, T., Seiferth, N. Y., Reske, M. Backes, V., et al. (2007). Gender differences in the cognitive control of emotion: An fMRI study. Neuropsychologia, 45, 2744-2754.
[19] McCullough, M. E., & Willoughby, B. L. B. (2009). Religion, Self-Regulation, and Self-Control: Associations, Explanations, and Implications. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 69-93.
[20] Montagne, B., Kessels, R. P. C., Frigerio, E., Haan, E. H. F. de, & Perrett, D. I. (2005). Sex differences in the perception of affective facial expressions: Do men really lack emotional sensitivity? Cognitive Process, 6, 136-141.
[21] Paloma, M. M., & Pendleton, B. F. (1990). Religious domains and general well-being. Social Indicators Research, 22, 255-276.
[22] Ren, J. Hu, L. Y., Zhang, H. Y., & Huang, Z. H. (2010). Implicit positive emotion counteracts ego depletion. Social Behavior and Personality, 38, 919-928.
[23] Rounding, K., Lee, A., Jacobson, J. A., & Li, J. (2012). Religion replenishes self-control. Psychological Science, 23, 635-642.
[24] Rowe, G., Hirsh, J. B., & Anderson, A. K. (2007). Positive affect increases the breadth of attentional selection. PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, 383-388.
[25] Scholten, M. R. M., Aleman, A., Montagne, B., & Kahn, R. S. (2005). Schizophrenia and processing of facial emotions: Sex matters. Schizophrenia, Research, 78, 61-67.
[26] Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 17152-17156.
[27] Tice, D. M., Baumeister, R. F., Shmueli, D., & Muraven, M. (2007). Restoring the self: Positive affect helps improve self-regulation following ego depletion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 379-384.
[28] Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (1999). International Affective Picture System (IAPS): Instruction Manual and Affective Ratings, Technical Report A-4. Gainesville, Florida: The Center for Research in Psychophysiology.
[29] Yang, W. (2011). The influence of Tibetan Buddhism on Tibetans’ social mental state and behaviour. Journal of Southwest University for Nationalities (Humanities and Social Science), 33, 17-23.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.