Thinking about religion gives people more self-control, according to a new study from Queen’s University.
“After unscrambling sentences containing religiously oriented words, participants in our studies exercised significantly more self-control,” said Kevin Rounding, a psychology graduate student and lead researcher on the study.
Study participants were given a sentence with five words to unscramble. Some contained religious themes and others did not. After unscrambling the sentences, participants were asked to complete a number of tasks that required self-control, such as enduring discomfort, delaying gratification, exerting patience, and refraining from impulsive responses.
Participants who had unscrambled sentences containing religious themes had more self-control in completing their tasks, the researchers said.
“Our most interesting finding was that religious concepts were able to refuel self-control after it had been depleted by another unrelated task,” said Rounding. “In other words, even when we would predict people to be unable to exert self-control, after completing the religiously themed task they defied logic and were able to muster self-control.”
“Until now, I believed religion was a matter of faith; people had little ‘practical’ use for religion,” he continued. “This research actually suggests that religion can serve a very useful function in society. People can turn to religion not just for transcendence and fears regarding death and an afterlife, but also for practical purposes.”
The study was published in Psychological Science.
Source: Queen’s University