People who recall being absolved of their sins, are more likely to donate money to the church, according to research published today in the journal Religion, Brain and Behavior.
Researchers from Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford assigned participants two memory tasks. In the first, they were asked to privately recall a sin that they had committed in the past, while in the second, they recalled attending confession for this sin or imagined doing so, if they had not confessed in reality.
Each participant was also given an opportunity to donate to a local Catholic church by placing some money in an envelope. For some participants, this donation was collected before they recalled being absolved of the sin, whereas for others the donation was collected afterward.
The results showed that recalling (or imagining) absolution strongly increased church donations, with the effect more pronounced in participants who believed in divine judgment and engaged in religious activities such as reading the bible or praying.
Dr Ryan McKay from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway said: "Recent evidence has suggested that people are more likely to behave prosocially, such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating and volunteering, when they feel guilty. This raises the question of whether religious rituals of absolution, in which people are absolved of their sins and released from guilt, would actually make people less prosocial.
"However, the results of our study suggest the opposite - that 'releasing' people from their sin has a positive prosocial effect. This indicates that the Catholic ritual of confession is an effective means of promoting commitment to the church"
Many other religions feature the concept of absolution in varying forms, such as Prāyaścitta in the Hindu tradition and Istighfar in Islam. The researchers are now keen to see if similar results would be seen beyond Catholicism. The research is part of a wider project on 'Ritual, Community and Conflict' supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Royal Holloway, University of London: http://www.rhul.ac.uk
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Tory MP David Tredinnick seems to believe that astrology could inform and improve UK healthcare. This view is misguided and potentially dangerous
Resistance to vital antimalarial drugs called artemisinins has spread across Burma to the Indian border. If not contained, it could ultimately hit Africa hard
Clostridium difficile sickens nearly half a million Americans annually, killing about 29,000, say federal health officials. They warn hospitals and nursing homes to tighten hygiene protocols.
Study looking at transmission among men who have sex with men recruited 545 participants at high risk of contracting HIV A daily pill can effectively protect gay men against infection with HIV
An experimental therapeutic vaccine from Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic helped significantly extend survival in patients with advanced prostate cancer, according to results of a small early-stage trial conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Scientists interviewed more than 1,000 men, women and children who were forced into sex work and hard labor. The result is the largest study to detail the health of human trafficking survivors.
Gerbils from Asia rather than black rats were responsible for repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague in Europe, a study suggests.
The so-called "cuddle-chemical" seems to block the action of alcohol in the brain, preventing the tell-tale signs of drunkenness in rats
An Australian developer is bringing workout gaming to the next level
A new study finds changes in Asian weather contributed to more than a dozen outbreaks of the disease known as Black Death