Are Hindu representations of the divine prototypically structured?

Although a great deal has been learned about the perceived attributes of God, systematic research on the cognitive structure of deity representations is lacking. Because extant research focuses almost exclusively on the Christian God, the present studies investigate the representation of deities in a polytheistic religion, Hinduism. Prototype theory informs 4 studies on how conceptualizations of Gods are structured. Using student and community samples, features of Gods are identified, feature centrality is documented, and centrality influence on cognition is evaluated. Studies 1 (feature identification task) and 2 (centrality rating task) produced considerable overlap in feature frequency documentation and feature centrality across the student and community samples, with “God is love” being the most frequently listed feature and most central feature in both samples. Study 3 showed that feature centrality influenced memory recall and recognition. Thus, cognitive representation of the divine in Hinduism is consistent with that of the prototype structure commonly found in the representation of natural objects. Study 4 identified boundary conditions for religious priming. Deity priming influenced ratings of central, but not peripheral, characteristics, only for respondents who rated themselves as closer to God(s). The implications of these results, especially for research on the impact of religious concepts on subsequent behavior, are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)