In four experiments Rounding et al. activate god-related concepts in participants without their conscious awareness, using an implicit-priming procedure that required participants to unscramble each of 10 five-word sentences by dropping an irrelevant word. Half of the sentences contained neutral words only ,and the remaining sentences contained one religious-prime word. A procedure like this evokes very little conscious awareness of the primed material, and participants who were suspicious of the primed material or who guessed the hypotheses of the study were excluded from the analyses. Next, participants engaged tasks that tested enduring discomfort, delayed gratification, or persistence with or without ego depletion. A forth condition used primes that were not religious, but suggested morality (such as righteous, virtue, or moral) or death (such as extinct, grave, or deadly). The researcher found religious priming most effective in increasing, or regenerating, self control. Here is their abstract:
Researchers have proposed that the emergence of religion was a cultural adaptation necessary for promoting self-control. Self-control, in turn, may serve as a psychological pillar supporting a myriad of adaptive psychological and behavioral tendencies. If this proposal is true, then subtle reminders of religious concepts should result in higher levels of self-control. In a series of four experiments, we consistently found that when religious themes were made implicitly salient, people exercised greater self-control, which, in turn, augmented their ability to make decisions in a number of behavioral domains that are theoretically relevant to both major religions and humans’ evolutionary success. Furthermore, when self-control resources were minimized, making it difficult for people to exercise restraint on future unrelated self-control tasks, we found that implicit reminders of religious concepts refueled people’s ability to exercise self-control. Moreover, compared with morality- or death-related concepts, religion had a unique influence on self-control.