The study was co-authored by Dr. Ian McGregor at York University, and by Jacob Hirsh and Kyle Nash, doctoral candidates at the University of Toronto and York University
Science Daily reports:
“You could think of this part of the brain like a cortical alarm bell that rings when an individual has just made a mistake or experiences uncertainty,” says lead author Inzlicht, who teaches and conducts research at the University of Toronto Scarborough. “We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. They’re much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error.”
The findings found that even after controlling for personality and cognitive ability those with a religious belief has a calming effect making it easier for them to feel less anxious about facing the unknown or making a mistake.
The Globe and Mail found that those in the religious community were not surprised by these findings.
David Reed, professor emeritus of pastoral theology and a research professor at Wycliffe College, said he isn’t surprised by the study’s results.
“Religious people, and I’m speaking for Christians but also other faiths as well, have some larger purpose other than themselves,” Reed said. “They have a more longitudinal view of life, in that they take it beyond death.”
The down side to this is that there are times when anxiety is both necessary and helpful. When one isn’t concerned about making mistakes the learning process can be affected.
Toronto University released a statement on the study.
“Obviously, anxiety can be negative because if you have too much, you’re paralyzed with fear,” he says. “However, it also serves a very useful function in that it alerts us when we’re making mistakes. If you don’t experience anxiety when you make an error, what impetus do you have to change or improve your behaviour so you don’t make the same mistakes again and again?”
What is not known though is the causation for this correlation between brain activity and religion.
The Canadian Press reports:
“Is it possible that someone who’s born with this kind of brain activity is attracted to religion, or is it the other way around? That religion leads one to have this kind of brain? So we’re exploring now the order of causation. What causes what?”
Future studies may show how this research may affect political views.