Kevin Lewis

November 02, 2011

Divergent effects of activating thoughts of God on self-regulation

Kristin Laurin, Aaron Kay & Gráinne Fitzsimons
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Despite the cultural ubiquity of ideas and images related to God, relatively little is known about the effects of exposure to God representations on behavior. Specific depictions of God differ across religions, but common to most is that God is (a) an omnipotent, controlling force and (b) an omniscient, all-knowing being. Given these 2 characteristic features, how might exposure to the concept of God influence behavior? Leveraging classic and recent theorizing on self-regulation and social cognition, we predict and test for 2 divergent effects of exposure to notions of God on self-regulatory processes. Specifically, we show that participants reminded of God (vs. neutral or positive concepts) demonstrate both decreased active goal pursuit (Studies 1, 2, and 5) and increased temptation resistance (Studies 3, 4, and 5). These findings provide the first experimental evidence that exposure to God influences goal pursuit and suggest that the ever-present cultural reminders of God can be both burden and benefit for self-regulation.


God Save This Honorable Court: Religion as a Source of Judicial Policy Preferences

William Blake
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

If Supreme Court behavior is structured largely by the policy preferences of the justices, political scientists ought to consider the source of those preferences. Religion is one force that can strongly shape a judge's worldview and therefore her or his votes. In this article, the author examines the effect of religion on U.S. Supreme Court votes in eleven issue areas plausibly connected to religious values. Catholic justices vote in ways that more closely adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church than do non-Catholic justices even after controlling for ideology. These results may indicate that Catholic theology is different from Protestant or Jewish theology. It is also possible that on some issues there is not much of a theological difference, but religious values play a more prominent role in public life for Catholic justices.


No atheists in foxholes: Arguments for (but not against) afterlife belief buffers mortality salience effects for atheists

Nathan Heflick & Jamie Goldenberg
British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Terror management theory (TMT) posits that people cope with mortality concerns via symbolic immortality (e.g., secular cultural beliefs that outlast death) and/or literal immortality (afterlife belief). However, what happens when these two forms of immortality conflict, as in atheism? Would atheists' mortality concerns be better assuaged by affirming an afterlife, or by affirming their literal immortality-denying worldview? Drawing on an untested TMT hypothesis, we predicted that atheists would be buffered from mortality concerns if their atheistic worldview - no life after death - was challenged, but not if it was supported. Results confirmed the hypothesis and were also found for theists and agnostics. These findings support TMT's claim that literal immortality is of paramount importance in ameliorating death concerns.


Catholic schooling and further education

Young-Joo Kim
Economics Letters, forthcoming

Using new estimation methods and data, I find that Catholic schooling substantially increases years of schooling by 0.42 to 0.47. The estimates are robust to various specifications that account for potential selection bias.


Fast profits: Investor sentiment and stock returns during Ramadan

Jędrzej Białkowski, Ahmad Etebari & Tomasz Piotr Wisniewski
Journal of Banking & Finance, forthcoming

Observed by more than 1.5 billion Muslims, Ramadan is one of the most celebrated religious traditions in the world. We investigate stock returns during Ramadan for 14 predominantly Muslim countries over the years 1989-2007. The results show that stock returns during Ramadan are significantly higher and less volatile than during the rest of the year. No discernible declines in market liquidity are recorded. We find these results consistent with a notion that Ramadan positively affects investor psychology, as it promotes feelings of solidarity and social identity among Muslims world-wide, leading to optimistic beliefs that extend to investment decisions.


The Religious Affiliation of Representatives and Support for Funding the Iraq War

Todd Collins et al.
Politics and Religion, December 2011, Pages 550-568

In this article, we add to the evolving literature examining the importance of religious orientation and political elite behavior. We use data on the religious affiliations of United States House of Representative members to test the influence of religion on military funding for the "War on Terror." Our findings indicate that, even after controlling for traditional political factors, such as ideology and partisanship, representatives' religious backgrounds often played a role in support for this bill. Roman Catholics, African-American Protestants, and those of other religions and the non-religious were more strongly opposed to funding for military intervention than mainline Protestants, even after controlling for other factors. This article provides a further look at the influence of religion and suggests that factors outside the traditional political dynamics may also be important in examining elite behaviors.


The relationship between intelligence and multiple domains of religious belief: Evidence from a large adult US sample

Gary Lewis, Stuart Ritchie & Timothy Bates
Intelligence, forthcoming

High levels of religiosity have been linked to lower levels of intelligence in a number of recent studies. These results have generated both controversy and theoretical interest. Here in a large sample of US adults we address several issues that restricted the generalizability of these previous results. We measured six dimensions of religiosity (rather than just one or two), along with a multi-scale instrument to assess general intelligence. We also controlled for the influence of the personality trait openness on facets of religious belief and practice. The results indicated that lower intelligence is most strongly associated with higher levels of fundamentalism, but also modestly predicts central components of religiosity such as a sense of religious identification and private religious practice. Secondly, we found that a higher level of openness - often assumed to lead to lower religiosity - is weakly associated with reduced fundamentalism but with increased religious mindfulness, private religious practice, religious support, and spirituality. These new results provide a framework for understanding the links between reasoning and faith.


An experimental test of the relationship between religion and gratitude

Jo-Ann Tsang, Ashleigh Schulwitz & Robert Carlisle
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Although gratitude is an important component of religion, very little research exists on the relationship between religion and gratitude. Most research is correlational and relies on self-report measures. We addressed these limitations by experimentally manipulating religious salience and by including a behavioral measure of gratitude. We examined the relationship between religion and two forms of gratitude: (a) grateful reactions to a specific, standardized favor, and (b) self-reported grateful personality. Eighty-one female undergraduate students received a religious or neutral prime, and then received a positive outcome ostensibly from another participant or from random chance. Results demonstrated that intrinsic religiousness was positively associated with grateful disposition but not with self-report or behavioral gratitude for the specific favor. Intrinsic religion was also positively associated with self-reported motivation to express appreciation, but only in the presence of a religious prime and in the absence of a favor. The religious prime had a marginal main effect, facilitating prosocial behaviors but not gratitude. These results provide important qualifications for the positive relationship between religion and gratitude reported in previous research.


Evolution and personal religious belief: Christian university biology-related majors' search for reconciliation

Mark Winslow, John Staver & Lawrence Scharmann
Journal of Research in Science Teaching, November 2011, Pages 1026-1049

The goal of this study was to explore Christian biology-related majors' perceptions of conflicts between evolution and their religious beliefs. This naturalistic study utilized a case study design of 15 undergraduate biology-related majors at or recent biology-related graduates from a mid-western Christian university. The broad sources of data were interviews, course documents, and observations. Outcomes indicate that most participants were raised to believe in creationism, but came to accept evolution through evaluating evidence for evolution, negotiating the literalness of Genesis, recognizing evolution as a non-salvation issue, and observing professors as Christian role models who accept evolution. This study lends heuristic insight to researchers and educators seeking to understand the complex processes by which Christian biology-related majors approach learning about evolution.


Scientists and Spirituality

Elaine Howard Ecklund & Elizabeth Long
Sociology of Religion, Autumn 2011, Pages 253-274

We ask how scientists understand spirituality and its relation to religion and to science. Analyses are based on in-depth interviews with 275 natural and social scientists at 21 top U.S. research universities who were part of the Religion among Academic Scientists survey. We find that this subset of scientists have several distinct conceptual or categorical strategies for framing the connection spirituality has with science. Such distinct framings are instantiated in spiritual beliefs more congruent with science than religion, as manifested in the possibility of "spiritual atheism," those who see themselves as spiritual yet do not believe in God or a god. Scientists stress a pursuit of truth that is individualized (but not characterized by therapeutic aims) as well as voluntary engagement both inside and outside the university. Results add complexity to existing thinking about spirituality in contemporary American life, indicating that conceptions of spirituality may be bundled with characteristics of particular master identity statuses such as occupational groups. Such understandings also enrich and inform existing theories of religious change, particularly those related to secularization.


Religion and Well-being: The Moderating Role of Culture and the Oxytocin Receptor (OXTR) Gene

Joni Sasaki, Heejung Kim & Jun Xu
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, November 2011, Pages 1394-1405

Research suggests that religiosity, or the importance of religion in one's life, may be related to well-being, but little is known about how culture and genes may play a role in this relationship. Given that religion in a North American cultural context tends to emphasize social affiliation less than in an East Asian cultural context and that some people may be genetically predisposed to be more socially sensitive than others, the way religion is linked to well-being may depend on the interplay between cultural context and genetic make-up. The current study examined how culture (i.e., European Americans vs. Koreans) and a specific gene polymorphism (i.e., oxytocin receptor polymorphism rs53576) may interact to impact the association between religiosity and psychological well-being. Results showed that among people who were more genetically predisposed toward social sensitivity (i.e., G/G genotype), Koreans had greater psychological well-being if they were more religious; however, European Americans with the G/G genotype had lower psychological well-being if they were more religious. These findings suggest that religion may benefit well-being for those who are genetically predisposed to be socially sensitive but only to the extent that the cultural context provides adequate opportunities for social affiliation.


Awe activates religious and spiritual feelings and behavioral intentions

Patty Van Cappellen & Vassilis Saroglou
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

In two experiments, we investigated the role of awe in activating the association between religiosity/spirituality and related feelings and behavioral intentions. In Experiment 1, the induction of awe (through the recall of a relevant event), but not the induction of pride or a neutral condition, led religious and spiritual participants to endorse a spiritual (Tibet) but not a hedonistic (Haiti) travel destination. In Experiment 2, the induction (through relevant video clips) of (a) awe of nature and (b) awe at childbirth, but not the induction of humor led religious/spiritual people to express, respectively, feelings of oneness with (a) others in general and (b) friends. Implications of these findings, for instance in understanding the role of self-transcendent positive emotions in religious rituals, are discussed.


Making Sense of the Sacred

Kevin Gibson
Negotiation Journal, October 2011, Pages 477-492

In this note I examine the concept of sacred values. Some commentators have recommended avoiding the question or postponing negotiations until other issues have been settled, whereas others have suggested that few sacred values cannot be rendered into some form of trade-off (i.e., they are pseudosacred). Here, I follow Scott Atran and Robert Axelrod and argue that ritual and the sacred can be an important component of negotiation and, when addressed effectively, have great potential to break impasse. I first examine the notion of the sacred and its near synonyms, the priceless and the intrinsically valuable. I then look at the issue of valuing life and show that although society places limits on lives as a matter of policy, it paradoxically funds heroic acts, such as mine rescues, which defy economic justification. These acts turn out to fulfill an important symbolic and ritualistic function. Finally, I draw out three implications of the framework for negotiators: negotiators should engage in some form of values clarification among the parties, material compromise by one party does not necessarily indicate that that party's values were not ultimate or that these have been relinquished, and considerable weight should be placed on ritualistic and symbolic gestures with regard to values.


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