Mental Representations of Paradise and Hell in Orthodox Believers



The paper studied the content of mental representations of paradise and hell in Orthodox believers. We searched for differences in detailing of the representations and correlations with the religiosity of the subjects. After pre-selection, the final sample for analysis was: 62 people of Orthodox Christianity, residents of Russia (67.74% women and 32.26% men), age from 18 to 57 years (M = 34.32; SD = 11.03). The following research methods were used: The Centrality of Religiosity Scale (S. Huber & O. Huber), method of directed associations, mini-essay. Orthodox believers are found to produce a significantly greater number of associations with the concept of hell than with the concept of paradise (p = 0.001); the effect size is above average (Cohen’s d = 0.574). The mental representations of hell at the associative level are more detailed and ordered compared to those of paradise. This can be regarded as an indicator of subjective experience at the unconscious or weakly realized level that hell is farther from believers than paradise (in the sense of psychological distance). The degree in which these religious concepts are detailed at the associative level is not related to the level of religiosity of Orthodox believers, but is related to other factors: presumably, to the cultural background of the concepts, individual characteristics of believers, etc.

General Information

Keywords: mental representations; paradise; hell; Orthodox; Christians; religious representations

Journal rubric: Empirical Research

Article type: scientific article


Received: 12.10.2023


For citation: Dvoinin A.M., Ivanova A.S. Mental Representations of Paradise and Hell in Orthodox Believers. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2024. Vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 60–68. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2024200207. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Dvoinin A.M. Priroda religioznogo soznaniya v optike kul’turno-istoricheskoy psikhologii L.S. Vygotskogo [The nature of religious consciousness in the optics of cultural-historical psychology by Lev S. Vygotsky]. Vestnik PSTGU. Seria I: Bogoslovie. Filosofia. Religiovedenie [Tikhon’s University Review. Theology. Philosophy. Religious Studies], 2022. Vol. 104, pp. 123–143. DOI:10.15382/sturI2022104.123-143. (in Russ.).
  2. Kolkunova K.A., Malevich T.V., Kozhevnikov D.D. Pravoslavnye representatsii Boga i implitsitnoe antropomorfnoe myshlenie [Orthodox representations of God and implicit anthropomorphic reasoning]. Vestnik Seria I: Bogoslovie. Filosofia. Religiovedenie [St.Tikhon’s University Review. Theology. Philosophy. Religious Studies], 2017. Vol. 74, pp. 67–90. DOI:10.15382/sturI201774.67-90
  3. Medvedev B.P. Obzor teorii konstruktov raznogo urovnya: istoriya formirovaniya, osnovnye polozheniya i issledovatel’skiy potentsial [Overview of the Construal Level Theory: History of formation, main provisions and research potential]. Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia psikhologiia = Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology, Vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 127–139. DOI:10.17759/jmfp.2022110312. (In Russ.).
  4. Popova M.A. Freydizm i religiya [Freudianism and religion]. Moscow: Nauka, 1985. 200 p.
  5. Prokhorov A.O. Mental’nye reprezentatsii psikhicheskikh sostoyaniy: fenomenologicheskie I eksperimental’nye kharakteristiki [Mental states representations: phenomenological and experimental characteristics]. Eksperimental'naya psihologiya = Experimental Psychology, Vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 23–37. DOI:10.17759/exppsy.2016090203 (In Russ.).
  6. Ugrinovich D.M. Psikhologiya religii [Psychology of Religion]. Moscow: Politizdat, 1986. 350 p.
  7. Ulybina E.V., Klimova K.K. Vliyanie aktualizatsii mysley o Boge i urovnya religioznosti na otnoshenie k neopredelyonnosti [Influence of the actualization of thoughts about God and the level of religiosity on the attitude to uncertainty]. Artikult [Artikult], Vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 108–121.
  8. Kholodnaya M.A. Psikhologiya intellekta: Paradoksy issledovaniya [The Psychology of Intelligence: Paradoxes of Research]. Moscow: Urait, 2023. 334 p.
  9. Huber S., Uber O. Shkala Tsentral’nosti religioznosti (CRS) [The Centrality of Religiosity Scale (CRS)]. Sotsiologiya: metodologiya, metody, matematicheskoe modelirovanie (Sotsiologiya: 4M) [Sociology: Methodology, Methods, Mathematical Modelling (Sociology: 4M)], 2018. Vol. 47, pp. 144–171.
  10. Barrett J.L. Cognitive constraints on Hindu concepts of the divine. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1998. Vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 608–619.
  11. Barrett J.L., Keil F.C. Conceptualizing a non-natural entity: anthropomorphism in God concepts. Cognitive Psychology, 1996. Vol. 31, pp. 219–247. DOI:1006/cogp.1996.0017
  12. Boyer P. Functional origins of religious concepts: Ontological and strategic selection in evolved minds. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2000. Vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 195–214.
  13. Fromm E. Psychoanalysis and Religion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950. 119 p.
  14. Hoffmann L. Cooperation in the name of God? Experimental evidence from Ghana and Tanzania. Journal of Economic Psychology, 2022. Vol. 93, 102573. DOI:10.1016/j.joep.2022.102573
  15. Pargament K.I. The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, Practice. N.Y.: Guilford, 1997. 548 p.
  16. Sagioglou C., Forstmann M. Activating Christian religious concepts increases intolerance of ambiguity and judgment Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2013. Vol. 49, no. 5, pp. 933–939.
  17. Shariff A.F. Does religion increase moral behavior? Current Opinion in Psychology, 2015. Vol. 6, pp. 108–113. DOI:10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.07.009
  18. Streib H. Leaving religion: deconversion. Current Opinion in Psychology, 2021. Vol. 40, pp. 139–144. DOI:10.1016/j.copsyc.2020.09.007
  19. Wulff D.M. Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Views.Y.: John Wiley & Sons, 1991. 640 p.
  20. Zelekha Ya., Avnimelech G. Cultural and personal channels between religion, religiosity, and corruption. Heliyon, 2023. Vol. 9, no. 6, e16882. DOI:10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e16882

Information About the Authors

Alexey M. Dvoinin, PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, HSE University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Anna S. Ivanova, Bachelor of Psychology, Independent Researcher, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 25
Previous month: 0
Current month: 25


Total: 6
Previous month: 0
Current month: 6