Michiel van Elk's research while affiliated with Leiden University and other places

Publications (139)

Article
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The relation between religiosity and well-being is one of the most researched topics in the psychology of religion, yet the directionality and robustness of the effect remains debated. Here, we adopted a many-analysts approach to assess the robustness of this relation based on a new cross-cultural dataset (N = 10, 535 participants from 24 countries...
Article
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This paper provides a critical review of several possible mechanisms at different levels of analysis underlying the effects and therapeutic potential of psychedelics. At the (1) biochemical level, psychedelics primarily affect the 5-HT2a receptor, increase neuroplasticity, offer a critical period for social reward learning and have anti-inflammator...
Preprint
In this document, we outline the dataset that was used in the Many-Analysts Religion Project (MARP). Specifically, we provide details on how participants were recruited and what materials were used. The dataset itself is openly available at https://osf.io/k9puq/. If you want to use the data, please cite this document.
Article
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There is an increased societal trend to engage in microdosing, in which small sub-hallucinogenic amounts of psychedelics are consumed on a regular basis. Following subjective reports that microdosing enhances the experience of nature and art, in the present study we set out to study the effects of psilocybin microdosing on feelings of awe and art p...
Article
Ayahuasca is a plant decoction in traditional Amazonian medicine. Its ritual use has been internationalized, leading to policy challenges that countries should address. This study evaluates the impact of regular ayahuasca ceremony participation on health by assessing the health status of 377 participants in ayahuasca ceremonies in the Netherlands u...
Preprint
In the main article on the Many-Analysts Religion Project (MARP) the results of the 120 analysis teams were summarized by taking each team's reported effect size and subjective assessment of the relation between religiosity and well-being, and the moderating role of cultural norms on this relation. Here, we discuss the findings in the main manuscri...
Article
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People tend to evaluate information from reliable sources more favourably, but it is unclear exactly how perceivers’ worldviews interact with this source credibility effect. In a large and diverse cross-cultural sample (N = 10,195 from 24 countries), we presented participants with obscure, meaningless statements attributed to either a spiritual gur...
Article
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Background Microdoses of psychedelics (i.e. a sub-hallucinogenic dose taken every third day) can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress according to anecdotal reports and observational studies. Research with medium to high doses of psilocybin points towards potential underlying mechanisms, including the modulation of emotion and interoce...
Article
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There is evidence that religiosity and self-esteem are positively related, while self-esteem and religiosity in turn predict successful social adaptation. Moreover, self-esteem has been shown to be directly related to social adaptation in vulnerable contexts. In this registered report study, we tested the hypothesis that religiosity has a positive...
Article
Awe is a fascinating emotion, associated with positive consequences such as greater prosociality, generosity, and epistemic openness. Unfortunately, in spite of the weighty consequences of awe, the exact way in which it arises, and what it entails, is still a puzzle. Particularly puzzling is the question of whether awe is the result of expectancy v...
Article
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In response to a recent call to rid psychedelic science of the concept of mystical experience, we argue that acknowledging the varieties and weirdness of psychedelic experiences should be at the heart of any research program on this topic. We highlight the rich tradition and scientific tools for studying mystical-type experiences, their relevance f...
Preprint
Introduction: Microdosing refers to the repetitive administration of tiny doses of psychedelics (LSD, Psilocybin) over an extended period of time. This practice has been linked to alleged cognitive benefits, such as improved mood and creativity, potentiated by targeting serotonergic 5-HT2A receptors and facilitating cognitive flexibility. Nonethele...
Preprint
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Recent clinical trials have demonstrated that psilocybin may have strong antidepressant effects, and may be effective in the treatment of depressive disorders when embedded in a psychotherapeutic protocol (psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy; PAP). There are now dozens of registered and ongoing clinical trials that intend to test for the efficacy of...
Article
In this paper I introduce the theory of predictive processing as a unifying conceptual framework to account for the human ability to use and innovate tools. I explain the basic concepts of predictive processing and illustrate how this framework accounts for the development of tool use in young infants and for findings in the neuropsychological and...
Preprint
Lee and Schwarz interpret meta-analytic research and replication studies as providing evidence for the robustness of cleansing effects. We argue that the currently available evidence is unconvincing because (a) publication bias and the opportunistic use of researcher degrees of freedom appear to have inflated meta-analytic effect size estimates, an...
Article
Lee and Schwarz interpret meta-analytic research and replication studies as providing evidence for the robustness of cleansing effects. We argue that the currently available evidence is unconvincing because (a) publication bias and the opportunistic use of researcher degrees of freedom appear to have inflated meta-analytic effect size estimates, an...
Preprint
The Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) is a relatively young but prolific field that has offered compelling insights into religious minds and practices. However, many empirical findings within this field are still preliminary and their reliability remains to be determined. In this paper, we first argue that it is crucial to critically evaluate the...
Article
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The aim of this preregistered EEG study was to show how expectations about enhanced or impaired performance through transcranial stimulation affect feelings of agency and error processing. Using a single-blind experimental design, participants (N = 57) were attached to a transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) device, and in different blocks...
Preprint
Full-text available
People tend to evaluate information from reliable sources more favourably, but it is unclear exactly how perceivers' worldviews interact with this source credibility effect. Here, we present data from a cross-cultural study in which individuals (N = 10,195) from a religiously and culturally diverse sample of 24 countries were presented with obscure...
Article
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RationaleRecent research has shown that classical serotonergic psychedelic (CSP) drugs may be used to ameliorate certain health issues and disorders. Here we hypothesised that CSP experiences, through their ability to induce awe and ego-dissolution, may result in a reduction of maladaptive narcissistic personality traits, such as a strong sense of...
Article
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With an ever-increasing global trend of secularization, understanding the nature of religious unbelief is of utmost importance. A recent study used Latent Class Analysis to identify three different groups of unbelievers in the highly secular context of Northern Europe. In the present commentary we report the outcomes of a replication study on religi...
Article
The growing secularism generates considerable interest in the manifestations of religious unbelief. In this study, conducted in Finland, Denmark, and the Netherland (N = 4404), we asked participants which of the following terms best describes their religious/spiritual identity: religious believer, spiritual but not religious, spiritual seeker, athe...
Article
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We report the results of an empirical investigation of the extent to which supernatural believers endorse a porous conception of the mind, i.e., the belief that one’s thoughts can be directly perceived by others. We developed a porous theory of mind (PToM) scale, tested its factor structure by using both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses...
Article
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In the current preregistered fMRI study, we investigated the relationship between religiosity and behavioral and neural mechanisms of conflict processing, as a conceptual replication of the study by Inzlicht et al. (2009). Participants (N=193) performed a gender-Stroop task and afterwards completed standardized measures to assess their religiosity....
Article
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Despite recent developments to improve the transparency of scientific research, the field is in need of a new and effective way to communicate non-significant or unpublished findings to a broader audience. In this short report, I present an overview of different unpublished studies that we conducted in my lab over the past years. Across the differe...
Preprint
RationaleThere has been a recent increase in research showing that classical serotonergic psychedelic (CSP) drugs may be used to ameliorate certain health issues and disorders. Here we hypothesized that CSP experiences, through their ability to induce awe and ego-dissolution, may result in a reduction of maladaptive narcissistic personality traits,...
Preprint
We report the results of an empirical investigation of the extent to which supernatural believers endorse a porous conception of the mind, i.e., the belief that one’s thoughts can be directly perceived by others. We developed a porous theory of mind (PToM) scale, tested its factor structure by using both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses...
Preprint
Full-text available
In the current preregistered fMRI study, we investigated the relationship between religiosity and behavioral and neural mechanisms of conflict processing, as a conceptual replication of the study by Inzlicht et al. (2009). Participants (N = 193) performed a gender-Stroop task and afterwards completed standardized measures to assess their religiosit...
Article
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The effects of emotion on time perception are elusive: depending on the intensity, valence and arousal of the situation, implicit and explicit time perception seems to slow down or speed up. Awe is a strong and powerful positive emotion that is typically elicited in response to vast stimuli and therefore inducing awe may be optimally suited for stu...
Article
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Compensatory Control Theory (CCT) suggests that religious belief systems provide an external source of control that can substitute a perceived lack of personal control. In a seminal paper, it was experimentally demonstrated that a threat to personal control increases endorsement of the existence of a controlling God. In the current registered repor...
Preprint
Compensatory Control Theory (CCT) suggests that religious belief systems provide an external source of control that can substitute a perceived lack of personal control. In a seminal paper, Kay et al. (2008) experimentally demonstrated that a threat to personal control increases endorsement of the existence of a controlling God. In the current regis...
Article
This study identified the psychological and cognitive factors that predispose people to believe in neuromyths (e.g., the belief that we only use 10% of our brain) and in cognitive enhancement (e.g., the belief that brain stimulation devices can enhance cognition). A new scale to measure belief in neuromyths and cognitive enhancement was developed a...
Article
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The neural substrates of religious belief and experience are an intriguing though contentious topic. Here we had the unique opportunity to establish the relation between validated measures of religiosity and gray matter volume in a large sample of participants (N = 211). In this registered report we conducted a confirmatory Voxel-Based Morphometry...
Article
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Some people seem to have a 'talent' for spiritual experience: they readily sense the presence of supernatural beings, receive special messages from God, and report intense feelings of self-transcendence, awe and wonder. Here we review converging strands of evidence to argue that the trait of 'absorption' captures a general proclivity for having spi...
Article
The different forms of religious unbelief are still much of an open question. Using data (N = 4,404) from three European countries—Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands—we sought to identify underlying unbeliever groups among those with the strongest disbelief in God (N = 2,258). Latent class analyses were conducted on the nontheistic supernatural...
Article
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In the present fMRI study, we aimed to obtain insight into the key brain networks involved in the experience of awe—a complex emotion that is typically elicited by perceptually vast stimuli. Participants were presented with awe‐eliciting, positive and neutral videos, while they were instructed to get fully absorbed in the scenery or to count the nu...
Article
Previous work demonstrated that placebo brain stimulation can function as an experimental tool to elicit mystical and quasi-mystical (i.e., extraordinary) experiences. However, it has not yet been investigated whether these effects result from mere sensory deprivation and individual differences in suggestibility, or whether expectancy manipulations...
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We report seven experiments to investigate the effects of control threat manipulations on different measures of illusory pattern perception: magical thinking (Study 1–3), conspiracy beliefs (Study 4), paranormal beliefs (Study 5) and agent detection (Study 6 and 7). Overall we did not find evidence for an effect of control threat on any of our rele...
Article
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This study examines the effects of expected transcranial stimulation on the error(-related) negativity (Ne or ERN) and the sense of agency in participants who perform a cognitive control task. Placebo transcranial direct current stimulation was used to elicit expectations of transcranially induced cognitive improvement or impairment. The improvemen...
Chapter
Effective tool use relies on the integration of multisensory signals related to one’s body and the tool. It has been shown that active tool use results in an extension of peripersonal space, i.e., the space directly surrounding the human body. In the present studies we investigated whether the mere observation of a virtual tool that could be manipu...
Article
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In the version of this Letter originally published, acknowledgement of funding for the authors Annika M. Svedholm-Häkkinen and Tapani Riekki by the Academy of Finland was mistakenly omitted. This has now been included in the Acknowledgements section of the Letter.
Article
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Religious belief is a topic of longstanding interest to psychological science, but the psychology of religious disbelief is a relative newcomer. One prominently discussed model is analytic atheism, wherein cognitive reflection, as measured with the Cognitive Reflection Test, overrides religious intuitions and instruction. Consistent with this model...
Article
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We develop a new model of how human agency-detection capacities and other socio-cognitive biases are involved in forming religious beliefs. Crucially, we distinguish general religious beliefs (such as *God exists*) from personal religious beliefs that directly refer to the agent holding the belief or to her peripersonal time and space (such as *God...
Article
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Dijksterhuis and van Knippenberg (1998) reported that participants primed with an intelligent category (“professor”) subsequently performed 13.1% better on a trivia test than participants primed with an unintelligent category (“soccer hooligans”). Two unpublished replications of this study by the original authors, designed to verify the appropriate...
Article
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We explored the effects of alcohol on expectancy-driven mystical and quasi-mystical experiences by manipulating participants’ expectations. By using the so-called God Helmet suggestion, participants were led to believe that a placebo brain stimulation could elicit mystical experiences. In this pre-registered field study, we set out to test whether...
Preprint
Full-text available
Religious belief is a topic of longstanding interest to psychological science, but the psychology of religious disbelief is a relative newcomer. One prominently discussed model is analytic atheism, wherein analytic thinking overrides religious intuitions and instruction. Consistent with this model, performance-based measures of reliance on analytic...
Data
Explorative analysis 2: Direct replication. (DOCX)
Data
Items of all questionnaires used in the Network analyses models. (DOCX)
Article
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The ability to mentalize has been marked as an important cognitive mechanism enabling belief in supernatural agents. In five studies we cross-culturally investigated the relationship between mentalizing and belief in supernatural agents with large sample sizes (over 67,000 participants in total) and different operationalizations of mentalizing. The...
Article
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It has been hypothesized that humans have evolved a hypersensitivity to detect intentional agents at a perceptual level, as failing to detect these agents may potentially be more harmful than incorrectly assuming that agents are absent. Following this logic, ambiguous threatening situations should lead people to falsely detect the presence of agent...
Article
Mounting evidence supports long-standing claims that religions can extend cooperative networks 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 . However, religious prosociality may have a strongly parochial component 5 . Moreover, aspects of religion may promote or exacerbate conflict with those outside a given religious group, promoting regional violence 10 , intergroup confli...
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Two studies examined people's aesthetic experiences of art in the laboratory and the museum. The theoretical framework guiding the research was based on the Mirror Model of Art (Tinio, 2013), which proposes that the process of artistic creation and artistic reception mirror each other. Study 1 used a think-aloud protocol to assess people's natural...
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We propose a Bayesian framework as an important theoretical and methodological tool to improve the scientific study of religion. At a theoretical level, the Bayesian predictive processing framework has the potential to provide a unifying account of religious beliefs and experience by stressing the central role of error monitoring and error correcti...
Article
The present study investigated the relation between paranormal beliefs, illusory control and the self-attribution bias, i.e., the motivated tendency to attribute positive outcomes to oneself while negative outcomes are externalized. Visitors of a psychic fair played a card guessing game and indicated their perceived control over randomly selected c...
Article
We present the theory of predictive processing as a unifying framework to account for the neurocognitive basis of religion and spirituality. Our model is substantiated by discussing four different brain mechanisms that play a key role in religion and spirituality: temporal brain areas are associated with religious visions and ecstatic experiences;...
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The present study sheds light on the contentious relation between religions and prosociality, by comparing self-reported altruistic and prosocial behavior among a group of Catholic and Protestant believers. We found that denomination was strongly related to strength of religious beliefs, afterlife beliefs, free-will beliefs and self-reported prosoc...
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Given the current debates about the precise functional role of the right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) in egocentric and exocentric perspective taking, in the present study we manipulated activity in the rTPJ to investigate the effects on a spatial perspective-taking task. Participants engaged in a mental body transformation task, requiring them...
Article
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Experimentally induced sensorimotor conflicts can result in a loss of the feeling of control over a movement (sense of agency). These findings are typically interpreted in terms of a forward model in which the predicted sensory consequences of the movement are compared with the observed sensory consequences. In the present study we investigated whe...
Chapter
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In this chapter, we focus on psychological and brain perspectives on the experience of coincidence. We first introduce the topic of the experience of coincidence in general. In the second section, we outline several psychological mechanisms that underlie the experience of coincidence in humans, such as cognitive biases, the role of context and the...
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Human beings have a strong tendency to imitate. Evidence from motor priming paradigms suggests that people automatically tend to imitate observed actions such as hand gestures by performing mirror-congruent movements (e.g., lifting one's right finger upon observing a left finger movement; from a mirror perspective). Many observed actions however, d...