Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, Psychology

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Previous research on deidentification from religion explores the residual effects of religion (i.e., religious residue; Van Tongeren et al., 2021). We sought to understand religious residue effects, and predicted that although currently religious individuals would report the highest degree of religious cognition, religious dones would report greater religious cognition than never religious individuals. We examined negative religious beliefs, taboos, pattern detection, and superstitious thinking. A total of 925 participants from the United States and the United Kingdom were recruited through Prolific; 300 currently religious, 298 religious "dones" and 327 never religious (236 male, 578 female, 4 transgender, 1 other, 4 prefer not to say, 92 no response). Participants were majority white/caucasian (88%) with an age range of 18-77 (average 36.94). Participants responded to a survey regarding the examined topics. A significant main effect was found for religious identity for negative religious beliefs, F(2, 839) = 228.94, p < .001, eta2 = .35 (.30-.40). As predicted, currently religious individuals reported the highest level of religious belief (M = 3.42, SD = .93); significantly more than religious “dones” (M = 2.07, SD = .86) and never religious individuals (M = 1.87, SD = 91; both ps < .001). Religious “dones” also reported significantly greater religious beliefs than never religious individuals (p = .028). We also examined the residual associations of beliefs on other target variables when comparing religious “dones” and never religious individuals across 5,000 bootstrapping iterations using PROCESS. Results indicated a significant indirect effect of negative religious beliefs on pattern detection (estimate = .03, SE = .02, 95% CI .01 to .07) and superstition (estimate = .11, SE = .04, 95% CI .03 to .19). As religious "dones" reported greater negative religious beliefs, they also were more likely to perceive an erroneous pattern and endorse superstitious beliefs—suggestive of a religious residue effect. This research provides evidence for persistent religious residue on religious cognition, and the centrality of persistent negative religious beliefs.


This project/publication was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation/Templeton Religion Trust. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation/Templeton Religion Trust.

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