Study: Prayer Improves Self-Control

Image: Study: Prayer Improves Self-Control U.S. troops pray before a Thanksgiving meal at a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan on Nov. 28.

Friday, 29 Nov 2013 09:19 PM

By Greg Richter

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Prayer allows people to keep control of their emotions and actions, a new study says.

Previous studies have found that when people try hard to control their thoughts and emotions, the buildup of emotion can result in aggressive outbursts or in binge eating or drinking, the Daily Mail reported.

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But the new study by German psychologists at Saarland University and the University of Mannheim found that prayer reduces those chances.

"A brief period of personal prayer buffered the self-control depletion effect," the researchers wrote. The findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

A total of 79 people participated in the study. Forty-one were Christians, 14 were atheists, 10 were agnostic and 14 were members of other religions.

Participants were left alone for five minutes and told either to pray or to think about one thing as intensely as they could. They were then shown comedic videos. Half were told to react normally and half were asked to try to suppress their reactions.

Next, they participated in Stroop tests, in which the names of colors were shown written in ink of a different color than the color's name. They were told to name the color rather than reading the word, which requires self-control.

Those who did not pray before watching the funny videos had more trouble with the Stroop test, indicating that praying before performing the task of controlling emotions helped people retain control when performing the Stroop test.

Additionally, the study found that those who prayed tried just as hard to control their emotions while watching the videos, but did not deplete their capacity for self-control.

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