Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

If Eternal Salvation isn't enough Motivation.......

. . . check out this NYT article, discussing an upcoming report in the Psychological Bulletin of research finding that "religious belief and piety promote self-control."  According to one of the researchers, Dr. Michael McCullough:  “Brain-scan studies have shown that when people pray or meditate, there’s a lot of activity in two parts of brain that are important for self-regulation and control of attention and emotion . . . . The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control.”

And just being "spiritual" instead of "religious" doesn't seem to have the same effect: 

In one personality study, strongly religious people were compared with people who subscribed to more general spiritual notions, like the idea that their lives were “directed by a spiritual force greater than any human being” or that they felt “a spiritual connection to other people.” The religious people scored relatively high in conscientiousness and self-control, whereas the spiritual people tended to score relatively low.

“Thinking about the oneness of humanity and the unity of nature doesn’t seem to be related to self-control,” Dr. McCullough said. “The self-control effect seems to come from being engaged in religious institutions and behaviors.”

So, the NYT reporter ponders, "So what’s a heathen to do in 2009? Dr. McCullough’s advice is to try replicating some of the religious mechanisms that seem to improve self-control, like private meditation or public involvement with an organization that has strong ideals."

I suppose actually engaging in the most significant "religous mechanism" -- prayer -- rather than trying to replicate it, is not an option for the heathen of 2009.  Oh, well, at least the rest of us MOJ bloggers and readers can take some comfort in this research as we draw up our resolutions tonight!

Happy New Year!


Schiltz, Elizabeth | Permalink

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