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Patients who participate in medical trials are rarely asked about their religious beliefs, so we should be grateful for any studies that do. Here's one, and it's a study of citalopram (sold as Cilexa and Cipromil), which is a modern antidepressant - a bit like Prozac.
So they got religion info on 148 patients out of the 300-odd who took part in the trial (they were a slightly unusual bunch - 64% black, 64% women, and 79% single). And they asked them about their 'Religious well-being' (i.e. whet........ Read more »
Schettino, J., Olmos, N., Myers, H., Joseph, N., Poland, R., & Lesser, I. (2011) Religiosity and treatment response to antidepressant medication: a prospective multi-site clinical trial. Mental Health, Religion , 1-14. DOI: 10.1080/13674676.2010.527931
Here's a novel study looking at how religion relates to social trust - you know, how trusting people are of each other. What's novel about it? Well, first off it's a study of Germans, so that's a new perspective we didn't have before.
Even more interestingly, however, it looks at the cultural effects of religion as well as the individual effects. In other words, if there are, say, more Protestants in an area, or more churchgoers, does that make people more trusting? Even if they are not Protest........ Read more »
Traunmuller, R. (2010) Moral Communities? Religion as a Source of Social Trust in a Multilevel Analysis of 97 German Regions. European Sociological Review, 27(3), 346-363. DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcq011
Mrs P thanks God for her recovery
from a tragic accident
This one's been in the news a bit recently - a study apparently showing that religion helps accident victims recover from brain trauma. You can read essentially the same report on lots of outlets - basically it's a straight dump of the press release.
So here's what they did. They took 88 adults who had had a serious brain injury sometime in the past 20 years, and they asked a friend or relative to fill out a standard questionnaire on h........ Read more »
Waldron-Perrine B, Rapport LJ, Hanks RA, Lumley M, Meachen SJ, & Hubbarth P. (2011) Religion and spirituality in rehabilitation outcomes among individuals with traumatic brain injury. Rehabilitation psychology, 56(2), 107-16. PMID: 21574729
The joy of accountancy is that it is no longer a simple game of adding up money in versus money out. Financial dealings these days are so complex that there is an almost infinite number of ways to hide or massage bad figures - if you want to, that is (think: Enron).
Now, the really fascinating thing is you can see this happening at an aggregate level. For example, you can look at how reporting of profits and losses vary from year to year, to see if accountants are smoothing the figures. You can........ Read more »
Callen, J., Morel, M., & Richardson, G. (2010) Do culture and religion mitigate earnings management? Evidence from a cross-country analysis. International Journal of Disclosure and Governance, 8(2), 103-121. DOI: 10.1057/jdg.2010.31
Back in 2009, I blogged about some then-unpublished studies by Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia (Why are atheists so disliked). The results suggested that one of the reasons that atheists in the USA are so disliked is because they are distrusted, and that at least part of this distrust was simply because atheists are few and far between - and so they seem strange and unfamiliar.
Gervais has a new paper out that covers some of the same territory but exte........ Read more »
Gervais, W. (2011) Finding the Faithless: Perceived Atheist Prevalence Reduces Anti-Atheist Prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(4), 543-556. DOI: 10.1177/0146167211399583
When people are reminded about death, they get defensive. In the West, at least, they will tend to get more patriotic and more supportive of their cultural norms (Asian cultures tend to react a little differently). They also tend to get more religious.
Here's the question: do people get more religious because they want to believe in a life after death? Or do they get more religious because they need more certainty in general?
So what Zachary Hohman and Michael Hogg, at Claremont University in ........ Read more »
Hohman, Z., & Hogg, M. (2011) Fear and uncertainty in the face of death: The role of life after death in group identification. European Journal of Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.818
According to a new study just published in Science, societies can be spread along a spectrum of how tight their social control is:
... tight nations are more likely to have autocratic governing systems that suppress dissent, to have media institutions (broadcast, paper, Internet) with restricted content and more laws and controls, and to have criminal justice systems with higher monitoring, more severe punishment (e.g., the death penalty), and greater deterrence and control of crime.A team lead........ Read more »
Gelfand MJ, Raver JL, Nishii L, & others. (2011) Differences between tight and loose cultures: a 33-nation study. Science (New York, N.Y.), 332(6033), 1100-4. PMID: 21617077
So, what do you think? Are the religious in America more or less likely than average to support the use of torture?
To find out, Arial Malka (Yeshiva University, New York) and Christopher Soto (Colby College, Waterville, Maine) used data from a couple of opinion polls, one conducted in 2004 for ABC News/Washington Post and a larger one (nearly 2,000 people) conducted in 2008 (the 2008 American National Election Studies time series).
Here's an example of what they asked (this is from the 2004 ........ Read more »
Malka A, & Soto CJ. (2011) The Conflicting Influences of Religiosity on Attitude Toward Torture. Personality . PMID: 21525330
When you get in a stressful situation, your heart rate goes up and your blood pressure rises - the classic 'fight or flight' response. Not all people react the same, however.
Kevin Masters, of the University of Colorado, and Andrea Knestel (Brigham Young University), decided to test whether religious and non-religious people react differently to stress. People who do react badly to stress are more likely to die young, and they were wondering if this might help explain the differences in life ex........ Read more »
Masters KS, & Knestel A. (2011) Religious motivation and cardiovascular reactivity among middle aged adults: is being pro-religious really that good for you?. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. PMID: 21604184
A strange phenomenon, which has been noticed before in a couple of studies in the USA, is that people (well, students) tend to behave more nicely if you surreptitiously prime their minds with religious thoughts. When you get an unexpected result like that, the worry is that it's just a chance finding.
It's a common concern in the study of the psychology of religion (and science in general), because so few findings are replicated by other researchers. That's why a new study, by Ali Ahmed at Linn........ Read more »
Ahmed, A., & Salas, O. (2011) Implicit influences of Christian religious representations on dictator and prisoner's dilemma game decisions. Journal of Socio-Economics, 40(3), 242-246. DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2010.12.013
Going by media reports, you'd be forgiven for thinking that terrorism was something inflicted on Westerners by middle-eastern Muslims. It's not. By far the largest group of victims are those same middle-eastern Muslims, and Pakistan is currently bearing the brunt of the violence.
The causes of terrorist violence in Pakistan are complex - conflict between locals and immigrants from India after partition (the Mohajir), friction between the centre and the periphery, and of course, being a border s........ Read more »
Ahmed AE, Masood K, Dean SV, Shakir T, Kardar AA, Barlass U, Imam SH, Mohmand MG, Ibrahim H, Khan IS.... (2011) The constant threat of terrorism: stress levels and coping strategies amongst university students of Karachi. JPMA. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, 61(4), 410-4. PMID: 21465991
For the past 8 years, the folks at the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina, have been scanning the brains of a small band of elderly people. They're trying to discover whether changes in the volume of the hippocampus, a small part deep in the brain, are linked to late-onset depression and dementia.
The hippocampus plays an important role in learning and memory, and it's known that it decays at an ever-increasing pace as we age. O........ Read more »
Owen AD, Hayward RD, Koenig HG, Steffens DC, & Payne ME. (2011) Religious factors and hippocampal atrophy in late life. PloS one, 6(3). PMID: 21479219
Quality of life is a pretty nebulous concept. There's a lot of coffee-table chat about which places have the best quality of life, but is it really possible to measure it objectively?
Well, yes it is, an one way to do it is to do what a team from The University of Arizona and Washington State University have just done.
They began by assuming that 'Quality of Life' is a thing that has effects and causes. It basically sits in between them as a mediating factor. They used a sophisticated model ........ Read more »
Rahman, T., Mittelhammer, R., & Wandschneider, P. (2011) Measuring quality of life across countries: A multiple indicators and multiple causes approach. Journal of Socio-Economics, 40(1), 43-52. DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2010.06.002
In the previous post I wrote about how the link between religion and happiness, often thought to be rock-solid, doesn't seem to apply in England.
That suggests that the relationship between religion and happiness might vary from society to society. Now a new analysis, by Jan Eichhorn at the University of Edinburgh, finds that this indeed might be the case. He looked at 43 countries, mostly from Europe but also including the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Same as everyone else Eichhorn found t........ Read more »
Eichhorn, J. (2011) Happiness for Believers? Contextualizing the Effects of Religiosity on Life-Satisfaction. European Sociological Review. DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcr027
It's one of those givens that everyone accepts. Religious people are happier people. Now, you can argue why that might be - perhaps it's the social activities, perhaps it's the confidence that comes from believing in some kind of guardian angel.
Or maybe it's simply what comes from being in the mainstream. In most countries, being non-religious is a minority pursuit - and that's especially the case in the USA, where most research is done.
So it's nice to see some research from the UK. Claudi........ Read more »
Cooper, C., Bebbington, P., King, M., Jenkins, R., Farrell, M., Brugha, T., McManus, S., Stewart, R., & Livingston, G. (2011) Happiness across age groups: results from the 2007 National Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(6), 608-614. DOI: 10.1002/gps.2570
The Netherlands has a healthcare problem. Despite a high overall vaccination coverage, in the last two decades there have been epidemics of poliomyelitis (1992-1993), measles (1999-2000), rubella (2004-2005) and mumps (2007-2008).
These epidemics were all largely confined to an area stretching from the south-west to the north-east of the country. This is the Dutch Bible belt - shown in the graphic - where there are a relatively high number of orthodox (aka fundamentalist) Protestants. Almost a........ Read more »
Ruijs, W., Hautvast, J., van der Velden, K., de Vos, S., Knippenberg, H., & Hulscher, M. (2011) Religious subgroups influencing vaccination coverage in the Dutch Bible belt: an ecological study. BMC Public Health, 11(1), 102. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-11-102
Probably more important than whether you believe in a God is the type of God you believe in - from a behavioural point of view, at least.
For example, believers in a judgemental god are more likely to support the death penalty, and are more likely to suffer mental ill health. Back in 2006, Gary Jensen (a criminologist at Vanderbildt University) showed that so-called 'passionate dualism' - i.e. religious worldview characterised by intense beliefs in a clash between good and evil - is a major c........ Read more »
Shariff, A., & Norenzayan, A. (2011) Mean Gods Make Good People: Different Views of God Predict Cheating Behavior. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 21(2), 85-96. DOI: 10.1080/10508619.2011.556990
You may have seen the article by Jo Stiglitz, Nobel-Prize Winning Economist, in the current issue of Vanity Fair, in which he rips into the yawning chasm of wealth inequality that now exists in the US. Dan Ariely (of Predictably Irrational fame) is also in the news, talking about his study in which he showed that US citizens don't actually know how unequal their nation is, and that regardless of political persuasion they'd like it to look more like Sweden.
Now, inequality is a complex social pr........ Read more »
Stegmueller, D., Scheepers, P., Rossteutscher, S., & de Jong, E. (2011) Support for Redistribution in Western Europe: Assessing the role of religion. European Sociological Review. DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcr011
There's an element of Western religion that's clearly linked in some fundamental way to the fundamental human drive to be accepted and to 'belong' to your group. Teasing out what that is is actually harder than you might think.
Jochen Gebauer, at Humboldt University in Berlin, and Gregory Maio, at Cardiff University in Wales, have just published one of the most interesting studies into this that I've seen.
What they did was to get a bunch of Welsh students and subtly manipulate the strength of........ Read more »
Prayer is a pretty common feature of human existence, and holy books typically instruct believers to pray to obtain special blessing. But how do we know it works? Well, one line of thought is that a large number of people believe it works, and they unlikely to all be wrong.
Francis Galton, a freelance statistician based in London, England, has his doubts. He's published an analysis in which he points out that many other widely-held beliefs have fallen by the way-side:
Witches were unanimously ........ Read more »
Galton, F. (1872) Statistical Inquiries into the Efficacy of Prayer . Fortnightly Review , 125-135. info:/
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