Coventry University researchers set out to understand the psychology of religion

Research news

Monday 03 November 2014

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Researchers at Coventry University are calling for participants to take part in a new study investigating the psychological makeup of people with religious and spiritual beliefs.

In doing so, the team at the University’s Faculty at Health and Life Sciences hope to develop a better understanding of the parts of the brain involved in what makes some people believe in God or be spiritual and others not.
Recent research suggests there are regions of the prefrontal cortex - the most frontal part of the brain – that are most active when people reject spiritual ideas.* This new project aims to build on this understanding by taking a closer look at the role of this part of the brain during the endorsement or rebuttal of spiritual beliefs. 

The University is now looking for volunteers who are religious or who hold spiritual beliefs as well as those who are atheist or agnostic to take part in studies which will help with this research. 

Participants will need to travel to the research team’s centre at Coventry University where they will be asked to complete a number of questionnaires and computerised tasks. They will also be required to undergo a safe form of neurocognitive stimulation, which has previously been used to increase attention and improve mathematical ability.

Coventry University post-doctoral researcher Ute Kreplin said: 

Brain activation related to beliefs is not very well understood but research so far indicates that part of the front part of the brain is active in the formation and rejection of particular beliefs.

Our new study will be looking at this in more detail and we are looking for volunteers to take part in our tests as we attempt to formulate a deeper understanding of the cognitive and neural bases of spiritual and religious ideas, attitudes and beliefs.

Participants will receive payment to cover the costs of taking part and will need to attend the centre on three occasions between November this year and February 2015 when testing will be taking place. The research team intend to publish their findings in the summer of 2015.
Anyone wishing to take part in the study should contact the research team at Coventry University via email:
For further press information, please contact Mark Farnan, communications assistant, Coventry University, on +44 (0)24 7765 8245 or email


* Lindeman, M., Svedholm, A., Riekki, T., Raij, T., Hari, R. (2013). Is it just a brick wall or a sign from the universe? An fMRI study of supernatural believers and skeptics. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8: 943-9.