In several studies we investigated the relation between religion, control and illusory pattern perception by using the snowy pictures task. In this task participants are presented with pictures with a pattern of random dots and speckles. Previous studies have suggested that this measure captures illusory pattern perception.
In a first study we investigated the relation between illusory pattern perception and the feeling of control. Participants were presented with short stories describing situations in which they were in control or in which they were out of control (within-subjects manipulation). Participants were required to imagine being in the situation described and subsequently they were presented with a snowy picture. They were required to indicate whether the picture represented an image and if so, what image could be identified. No effect of control on illusory pattern perception was observed.
In a second study we investigated the relation between illusory pattern perception and religious beliefs. A sample of religious participants completed the snowy pictures task, indicating for a set of pictures whether a pattern could be detected and if so, what the pattern represented. We found strong individual differences in the number of illusory patterns that was reported, but no relation between religiosity and illusory pattern perception as measured with the snowy pictures task was observed.
Details of these studies and the data are available upon request.