Religious Priming

This experiment is a replication of and expansion upon a previous study performed by Dr. McNamara and Monroe Butler. The previous study shows impaired semantic activation to religious concepts compared to civic concepts, both relative to nonsense phrases. Subjects are “primed” with either a religious, civic, or a neutral word before being asked to identify a phrase as sensical or nonsensical.

Examples of the types of phrases used are:

  • Religious: pray quietly
  • Civic: pledge allegiance
  • Nonsense: jump cloud

We hypothesize that healthy control subjects will be primed by the religious word (i.e., faster reaction time) compared to those with Parkinson’s, and that those whose Parkinson’s disease is left-onset will have the slowest time of all when identifying religious phrases as sensical. They may show no priming at all. Those who participate while off of their Parkinson’s meds will likely show sensitivity of semantic priming to cortical dopamine levels. Differences between left-onset and right-onset Parkinson’s subjects are hypothesized to be enlarged with both groups showing increased resistance to priming to religious concepts, the former even more than the latter.



    Primary teaching affiliate
    of BU School of Medicine