Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Michael McCullough

Second Committee Member

Charles Carver

Third Committee Member

Terrence Hill


Recent work suggests that the links between religious belief and behavior with a variety of positive outcomes (e.g., longer life, more marital satisfaction, scholastic achievement, better health behaviors) may be partially explained by religious belief systems' ability to foster self-control and self-regulation. The current investigation sought to explore this hypothesis by determining if induction of religious cognition (through a supraliminal religious prime) could increase behavioral self-control, operationalized as performance on a maintained grip task. Using 118 participants, the author tested whether nonconscious exposure to religious content would increase the amount of time that participants were willing to physically persist at two rounds of the maintained grip task as compared to a control group. A within-subjects trial-by-prime interaction was found (the prime appeared to cause participants to persist at the task for less time during the first trial, but not the second) and a between-subjects sex-by-prime interaction was found (on average, men given the religious prime held their grip for less time than did men in the control group, whereas no differences were found between women). Findings are discussed in terms of the link between religion and self-control and future directions are suggested.


Religion; Self-Control; Self-Regulation; Priming