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Schjoedt, U., Sørensen, J., Nielbo, K. L., Xygalatas, D., Mitkidis, P., & Bulbulia, J. (2013). Cognitive resource depletion in religious interactions. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 3(1), 39-55.
Abstract: We explore the cognitive effects of three common features of religious interactions: (1) demand for the expressive suppression of emotion; (2) exposure to goaldemoted and causally opaque actions; and (3) the presence of a charismatic authority. Using a cognitive resource model of executive function, we argue that these three features affect the executive system in ways that limit the capacity for individual processing of religious events.We frame our analysis in the context of a general assumption that collective rituals facilitate the transmission of cultural ideas. Building on recent experiments, we suggest that these three features increase participants’ susceptibility to authoritative narratives and interpretations by preventing individuals from constructing their own accounts of the ritual event.
Schjoedt, U., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Geertz, A., and Roepstorff, A. (2011). The power of charisma: perceived charisma inhibits the attentional and executive systems of believers in intercessory prayer. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 4 (2), 199–207.
Abstract: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how assumptions about speakers’ abilities changed the evoked BOLD response in secular and Christian participants who received intercessory prayer. We find that recipients’ assumptions about senders’ charismatic abilities have important effects on their executive network. Most notably, the Christian participants deactivated the frontal network consisting of the medial and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex bilaterally in response to speakers who they believed had healing abilities. An independent analysis across subjects revealed that this deactivation predicted the Christian participants’ subsequent ratings of the speakers’ charisma and experience of God’s presence during prayer. These observations point to an important mechanism of authority that may facilitate charismatic influence, a mechanism which is likely to be present in other interpersonal interactions as well.
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