Thoughts of "God" increase risk-taking

  • March 07, 2015
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Reminders of “God” can make people more likely to seek out and take risks, according to research published in the research journal Psychological Science.

The findings suggest that people are willing to take these risks because they think of God as providing protection, according to the investigators.

“References to God pervade daily life-on any given day you might see the word ‘God' printed on U.S. currency, drive behind a car with a bumper sticker that references God,” said lead researcher Daniella Kupor of Stanford University Graduate School of Business in California.

“In fact, the word ‘God' is one of the most common nouns in the English language,” suggesting the risk effect might touch lots of people.

Many previous studies had indicated that religiosity and participation in religious activities are associated with decreases in people's engagement in risky behaviors like substance abuse and gambling, but Kupor and her colleagues noticed that the risks examined in these studies tended to share a negative moral component.

The researchers hypothesized that the idea of God may have a different effect in relation to risks that have no moral connotation. They decided to test this.

In a group of online survey studies with nearly 900 participants, the researchers found that people who were reminded of “God”- either by working on word scrambles that included God-related words or by reading a paragraph about God-were more willing to engage in various risky behaviors than those participants who weren't prompted to think about God.

In one study, for example, participants were asked to choose which version of the study they wanted to complete: one version would give them a small bonus payment, but involved looking at an “extremely bright color” that they were told could potentially damage their eyes, while the other version involved looking at a harmless darker color. The researchers found that participants who had been reminded of “God” prior to making their choice were more likely to opt for the dangerous version of the experiment (95.5 percent) than the participants who hadn't been reminded of God (84.3 percent).

In another study, the researchers posted variations of three ads online and recorded the click-through rates for each. There were ads that promoted an immoral risk (“Learn how to bribe”), ads that promoted a nonmoral risk (“Find skydiving near you”), and ads that promoted no risk (“Find amazing videogames”). In some cases, the ads included a mention of God (e.g., “God knows what you're missing! Find skydiving near you.”)

The findings were clear, the researchers said: When the ad included a reference to God, people clicked on the skydiving ad more often, but they clicked on the bribing (moral risk) less often. People clicked about the same number of times on the computer games ad, with or without a mention of God.

“We were surprised to find that even a simple colloquial expression-‘God knows what you're missing'-influences whether people click on a real online ad that is promoting a risky behavior,” said Kupor.

Additional findings indicated that people who were reminded of “God” perceived less danger in various risky behaviors than other participants. They also reported more negative feelings toward God when they lost their potential winnings in a risk-related game, suggesting that they had expected God to protect them from losing the money and were disappointed in the outcome.

The researchers said the effect may not hold for people from cultures in which God isn't seen as protective; nonetheless, the findings have broad relevance for millions of people around the world.

Source : http://www.world-science.net

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