Why religion's burdens are light: From religiosity to implicit self-regulation

Sander L. Koole, Michael E. McCullough, Julius Kuhl, Peter H.M.P. Roelofsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


To maintain religious standards, individuals must frequently endure aversive or forsake pleasurable experiences. Yet religious individuals on average display higher levels of emotional well-being compared to nonreligious individuals. The present article seeks to resolve this paradox by suggesting that many forms of religion may facilitate a self-regulatory mode that is flexible, efficient, and largely unconscious. In this implicit mode of self-regulation, religious individuals may be able to strive for high standards and simultaneously maintain high emotional well-being. A review of the empirical literature confirmed that religious stimuli and practices foster implicit self-regulation, particularly among individuals who fully internalized their religion's standards. The present work suggests that some seemingly irrational aspects of religion may have important psychological benefits by promoting implicit self-regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Automatic process
  • Implicit process
  • Religion
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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