The Implicit Image of God: God as Reality and Psychological Well-Being

Ines Testoni, Emilio Paolo Visintin, Dora Capozza, Maria Concetta Carlucci, Malihe Shams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has widely demonstrated that religiosity is related to psychological well-being even in situations of severe illness. To assess religious beliefs, explicit measures have generally been used. In this study, we measured the belief that God is reality as opposed to myth or abstraction by using an implicit technique (the Single Category Implicit Association Test). The study was carried out in Italy, where a large majority of the population is Catholic, and the prevailing image of God is that of a compassionate and supportive father. Participants were cancer patients identifying themselves as believers. As expected, the automatic belief that God is reality (vs. abstraction) was related to beneficial outcomes: lower reported psychophysical anxiety symptoms and a weaker use of avoidance strategies to cope with stress. Thus, also, automatic religious beliefs may affect feelings and behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-184
Number of pages11
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016


  • anxiety symptoms
  • automatic religious beliefs
  • cancer patients
  • controlled religious beliefs
  • coping responses to stress
  • Single Category Implicit Association Test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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