Is “Spirituality” Nothing but “Religion”? An Indirect Measurement Approach

  • Constantin KleinEmail author
  • Ralph W. Hood
  • Christopher F. Silver
  • Barbara Keller
  • Heinz Streib


While people might distinguish strictly between “spirituality” and “religion” on the explicit level of cognition, it is possible that such differences disappear on the implicit level. Implicit Association Tests (IAT s) provide a reliable and valid indirect procedure to measure implicit cognition. However, IAT s comparing “spirituality” and “religion” have not been used often in research yet. Earlier studies have tried to contrast both concepts either directly in one IAT or have used both concepts as a single category. Thus, in their operationalization they did not take the broadness, vagueness, and partial overlap of both terms into account satisfyingly. For a more valid comparison, in the Bielefeld-based Cross-cultural Study on “Spirituality,” both “spirituality” and “religion” have been assessed by using the same stimuli and have been contrasted with “atheism ” as a third concept. The results based on a subsample of 104 participants (USA: n = 67, Germany: n = 37) show that the task difficulties were reasonable and that both IAT s proved to be reliable. The general IAT effect s were .33 (USA) and .36 (Germany) for “spirituality” and .26 (USA) and .22 (Germany) for “religion,” indicating a preference for both “spirituality” and “religion” when contrasted with “atheism .” The effect sizes differ in parts significantly between four groups of explicit “spiritual/religious” self-identification in both countries. Explicit “spiritual”/“religious” self-ratings correlate highly significant with the IAT effect s for “spirituality” and “religion.” Although, in general, the IAT scores are also very highly correlated, comparison between the four subgroups revealed that explicit self-rating and implicit attitude towards “spirituality” differ significantly among those who distinguish between their “spirituality” and “religion” on the explicit level.


Spirituality Religion Atheism Implicit cognition IAT 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Constantin Klein
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ralph W. Hood
    • 2
  • Christopher F. Silver
    • 2
  • Barbara Keller
    • 1
  • Heinz Streib
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.University of TennesseChattanoogaUSA

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