Theses and Dissertations - UTB/UTPA

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Michael S. Minor

Second Advisor

Dr. A. Fuat Firat

Third Advisor

Dr. Reto Felix


Cult-like phenomena have been researched widely in the fields of marketing, religion, sociology, and---more recently---in the field of neuroscience, where the exploration between individuals and brands through these lenses begins to offer glimpses into the relationship between brands and their devotees. Religion, a multidimensional influence on human behavior and decision-making, has been under-researched in the marketing discipline due to the sensitivity of religious topics and difficulties in measuring the impact of so potentially broad a field as "religion". This research narrows the topic and begins filling in the gap in the religion-brand relationship and explores what constitutes a cult-like allegiance to a brand by examining subjects' relationship to the Apple brand, comparing response to stimuli by subjects who were "devotees" versus "indifferents" to Catholicism and to Apple. The author used Ninian Smart's (1989) "Seven Dimensions of Religion" as a theoretical framework to develop scales of measurement. Two studies were conducted in this research. Study 1 developed Catholic and Apple devotion scales with 708 subjects. Study 2 was an electroencephalography (EEG) experiment that tested the hypothesis with 60 participants. This research found that Catholic devotees produced statistically significant higher Alpha waves than Catholic indifferents in Material, Narrative, and Legal dimensions. Interestingly, Apple devotees produced statistically significant lower Alpha waves than Apple indifferents in Material, Ritual, and Emotional dimensions. Apple devotees did not trigger as high of Alpha waves as Catholic devotees overall. Even though not all the dimensions were statistically different between Catholic (Apple) devotees and indifferents, Catholic devotees did have higher Alpha waves than indifferents overall, while Apple devotees did not trigger higher Alpha waves than indifferents. These results were consistent throughout the Seven Dimensions. This research concluded that Apple devotees did not have transcendent feelings towards Apple based on the foundation of the Seven Dimensions of Religion. Therefore, Apple cannot be considered a religion that triggers the feeling of the divine. The findings can be used as a foundation for business applications. The last section of this research elaborates on the theoretical and practical implications and identifies new questions for future research.


Copyright 2015 Yi-Chia Wu. All Rights Reserved.

Granting Institution

University of Texas-Pan American