Thinking about religion gives people more self-control on later, unrelated tasks; according to results from a series of recent Queen's University study.
"After unscrambling sentences containing religiously oriented words, participants in our studies exercised significantly more self-control," says psychology graduate student and lead researcher on the study, Kevin Rounding.
Study participants were given a sentence containing 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 – enduring discomfort, delaying gratification, exerting patience, and refraining from impulsive responses.
Participants who had unscrambled the sentences containing religious themes had more self-control in completing their tasks.
"Our most interesting finding was that religious concepts were able to refuel self-control after it had been depleted by another unrelated task," says Mr. 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," Mr. Rounding explains. "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 after-life but also for practical purposes."
Other members of the research team include psychology graduate student Albert Lee and Queen's professors Jill Jacobson and Li-Jun Ji. The study was published in Psychological Science.