Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 321–332 | Cite as

Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Correlates of Internalization of Regulations for Religious Activities

  • Bart NeyrinckEmail author
  • Maarten Vansteenkiste
  • Willy Lens
  • Bart Duriez
  • Dirk Hutsebaut
Original Paper


The main goal of this study was to examine the relationship between different types of extrinsic motivation for religious behaviors as conceptualised within self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and Wulff's (1991) framework of literal versus symbolic approaches of religious contents. Results from a Belgian sample of active believers (N=186) show that the internalization of one's reasons for performing religious behaviors was positively associated with an open, symbolic interpretation of religious belief contents and a stronger adherence to Christian beliefs. Moreover, internalization was also positively related to general well-being and frequency of prayer but unrelated to church attendance. It is concluded that individuals who engage in religious behaviors because of its perceived personal significance will show more cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness towards Christian belief contents, a stronger adherence to this message, higher well-being and more frequent engagement in specific religious behaviors.


Religious internalization Self-determination theory Symbolic belief interpretation 



The second and fifth author's contribution was supported by a grant of the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen). The authors would like to thank Tom Rummens and Joëlle Verriest for their help in the data collection for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bart Neyrinck
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maarten Vansteenkiste
    • 2
  • Willy Lens
    • 1
  • Bart Duriez
    • 1
  • Dirk Hutsebaut
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Ghent UniversityGentBelgium

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