Previous research suggests that Christian belief and practice that emphasize human sinfulness 
may weaken positive attitude toward the self 
and reduce neural encoding of self-relatedness of personality trait words 
. In two experiments the current work tested the hypothesis that the influence of Christian belief and practice on self-related processing may extend into the perceptual domain by reducing the implicit positive association with self-face and weakening the self-face advantage during face recognition. Experiment 1 found that, while Atheist participants responded faster to self-face when it was associated with positive than with negative trait words, this IAT effect was significantly reduced in Christian participants. Experiment 2 found that Atheist participants responded faster to self-face compared to friend-face, replicating the robust self-face advantage 
. However, the self-face advantage was significantly weaker in Christian than in Atheist participants. Furthermore, the hierarchical regression analysis showed that the relationship between the IAT effect and the self-face advantage also differed significantly between Atheist and Christian participants, with a positive correlation between the IAT effect and the self-face advantage in atheists but not in Christians.
The results in Experiment 1 support our first hypothesis that the implicit positive attitude toward self-face is weakened in Christian relative to Atheist participants. According to the IPA theory of self-face advantage 
, the implicit positive attitude toward the self plays a pivotal role in the self-face advantage in behavioral responses during face recognition. Thus given the IPA theory and the results of Experiment 1, it can be assumed that the decreased self-face advantage in Christian than Atheist participants arose from the weakened IPA with self-face.
The results of hierarchical regression analyses further support the association between the IPA with self-face and self-face advantage in Atheist participants but not in Christian participants. Thus our findings on the one hand support the IPA theory by showing evidence for the association between the implicit positive view of the self and the self-face advantage. On the other hand, our results suggest that the implicit positive view of the self can be reduced by Christian belief and practice that repudiates the distinctness of the self and friends and this in turn can eliminate the advantage of self-face over friend-face in the believers.
Previous studies have shown evidence that Christian belief and practice influence social cognitive processes 
. For example, it has been shown that Christian belief and practice decreased self-relevance encoding during self-reflection 
, and increased prosocial behaviors 
and implicit self-regulation 
. Priming Christian religious concepts also led to increased racial prejudice 
. Our work compliment previous work by showing that Christian belief and practice also affect self-related processing in the perceptual domain by adopting a weakened positive association with self-concept advocated by Christianity. Similarly, the difference in self-concept between Western and East Asian cultures also gives rise to the variation of self-face advantage across Westerners and Chinese 
. A recent event-related brain potential study showed evidence for a greater self-face advantage in RTs in British than in Chinese participants 
. Cultural difference also exists in the neural mechanisms underlying self-face recognition. Relative to friend-face, self-face elicited an enhanced frontal activity at about 200 ms after stimulus onset in Westerners, whereas a reverse pattern was observed in Chinese. Thus an unresolved issue related to the current work is whether the neural mechanisms underlying self-face recognition are different between Christian and atheists. This can be examined in future work that combines brain imaging and the self-face recognition paradigm used in the current study.
There are several limitations in the current study. First, the current work tested the difference in self-face recognition between Christian and Atheist participants in a specific sociocultural context (i.e., Chinese culture). Christians constitute a minority group of members of the current society in China 
and this is different from the situation in the Western societies. Thus it is unclear whether Christian fundamentalism in the Western societies may influence self-face recognition in a similar vein. Further research may test Christian participants in Western cultures in order to examine whether Christian belief and practice produce similar influence on self-face recognition in different sociocultural environments.
Second, there has been evidence that self-construals influence the neural representation of the self and close others. It has been shown that, relative to priming Western cultures, priming East Asian cultures led to similar neural representation of personality traits of the self and a close other in the medial prefrontal cortex 
. Moreover, relative to interdependent self-construal priming, independent self-construal priming increased the right frontal activity that differentiated self-face from faces of familiar others 
. Because there has been no research report of cultural values and self-construals of Chinese atheists and Christians and these were not measured either in the current work, it is unknown to what degree our Atheist and Christian participants were different in self-construals and whether the difference in self-construals, if any, may contribute to the difference in self-face recognition in the two subject groups. One of our recent studies measured self-construals using the Self-construal Scale 
and the pilot data suggest that both Christian and Atheist participants exhibited greater interdependent than independent self-construal scores [Ma and Han, unpublished data]. Future research should clarify how self-construals contribute to the difference in self-face advantage between atheists and Christians.
Finally, although the behavioral performances in the face-own identification task suggested a different relation between self and a close other in Atheist and Christian participants, the current work did not measure subjective feelings of self-friend relationship and thus was unable to address how the relationship between the self and a friend influences self-face recognition in the two subject groups. The current work only tested a small number of participants. Future work may test whether the conclusion based on our findings can be applied to a large population.