Memory functioning following terror attack and the suggested immunization by religious faith

Ariela Gigi, Merav Papirovitz, Masika Hagit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to a terrorist attack is a traumatic experience that may result in elevated anxiety levels (DSM-IV, 1994). Aspects of religiousness were found to be correlated with better mental health outcomes. This study assessed levels of anxiety and cognitive functioning in subjects who were exposed to terror attacks and correlated it with reported levels of religious faith. Thirty-seven participants were recruited from religious settlements in the West Bank area in Israel. Fifteen subjects had been exposed to a terrorism event without developing predict post-traumatic stress disorder and 22 controls had no such exposure. Learning and memory retrieval, for verbal and visual stimuli, were tested and the groups were compared. Hall of the stimuli in each modality (verbal and visual) were rated as stressful, and half of them were rated as neutral. Responses and reaction times were recorded. Additionally, participants completed questionnaires to assess current anxiety and anxiety-proneness and reported religiousness. Memory performance was found to be significantly lower for those exposed to terror attack, in comparison with the controls. The differences were significant for visual stimuli only and in particular for the stress-related stimuli. The terrorism exposed group reported higher levels of state anxiety that was negatively correlated with levels of thee reported religious faith. Although aspects of religiousness were found to be negatively correlated with current anxiety levels in the terrorism exposed group, this study did not show religious beliefs provided immunity against cognitive deterioration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-204
Number of pages6
JournalStress and Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Anxiety
  • Episodic memory
  • Religious faith
  • Stressful stimuli
  • Terror attack


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