Uffe Schjødt

Associate professor

Uffe Schjødt
See relations at Aarhus University

Selected work:

Hoogeveen, S., Schjoedt, U., & van Elk, M. (2018). Did I Do That? Expectancy Effects of Brain Stimulation on Error-related Negativity and Sense of Agency. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 1-14.

Abstract: This study examines the effects of expected transcranial stimulation on the error(-related) negativity (Ne or ERN) and the sense of agency in participants who perform a cognitive control task. Placebo transcranial direct current stimulation was used to elicit expectations of transcranially induced cognitive improvement or impairment. The improvement/impairment manipulation affected both the Ne/ERN and the sense of agency (i.e., whether participants attributed errors to oneself or the brain stimulation device): Expected improvement increased the ERN in response to errors compared with both impairment and control conditions. Expected impairment made participants falsely attribute errors to the transcranial stimulation. This decrease in sense of agency was correlated with a reduced ERN amplitude. These results show that expectations about transcranial stimulation impact users' neural response to self-generated errors and the attribution of responsibility—especially when actions lead to negative outcomes. We discuss our findings in relation to predictive processing theory according to which the effect of prior expectations on the ERN reflects the brain's attempt to generate predictive models of incoming information. By demonstrating that induced expectations about transcranial stimulation can have effects at a neural level, that is, beyond mere demand characteristics, our findings highlight the potential for placebo brain stimulation as a promising tool for research.


Schjoedt, U., & Andersen, M. (2017). How does religious experience work in predictive minds?. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 1-4.
Abstract: Predictive coding is becoming the standard model of perception and cognition in cognitive neuroscience. Scholars of religion now face the challenge of understanding religious experiences in light of this new paradigm. Why do people report vivid supernatural encounters like apparitions, trance, possession, and mystical union if subjective experience is dominated by inferences that cause the least prediction error? Despite the existence of promising methods and pioneering theoretical ideas, few studies have examined real time predictive processing in religious experience. We point to several theoretical and methodological issues that need to be solved before researchers can properly approach religious experience in predictive minds.

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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