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God is up and devil is down: mortality salience increases implicit spatial-religious associations

Rihs, Michael; Mast, Fred; Hartmann, Matthias (2022). God is up and devil is down: mortality salience increases implicit spatial-religious associations. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12 (3), pp. 271-283. 10.1080/2153599X.2022.2035800

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Most Christians in Western cultures associate God with upper space and devil with lower space. Measuring this spatial association captures the implicit metaphorical representations of religious concepts. Previous studies have shown that implicit measurements of the belief in God increase when people are confronted with their own mortality. Here we investigated the effect of mortality salience on implicit metaphorical representations of religiosity. Using a repeated measurement design, we found that implicit associations between God-up and devil-down increase when people think about their own death, but not when they think about a tooth treatment (control condition). The effect was moderated by self-esteem; only people with low and medium self-esteem were influenced by mortality salience. Our results show that mortality salience automatically activates religious contents and their cognitive representations that embody these abstract contents.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

PHBern Contributor:

Rihs, Michael




Jessica Brunner

Date Deposited:

17 Apr 2023 14:51

Last Modified:

09 May 2023 00:42

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Conceptual metaphor theory, implicit association, implicit religiosity, mortality salience, terror management theory




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