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.
Researchers in Hong Kong have cured infected monkeys of MERS using existing drugs
European Medicines Agency recommends RTS,S, or Mosquirix, developed by GSK and backed by Gates Foundation, for use in young children in Africa
Drought conditions in western states may be fueling the spread of this potentially deadly illness
Terminal cancer patients sometimes get chemotherapy in the belief that it will ease their symptoms. But a study finds many who get the treatment near death actually have a poorer quality of life.
NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports that the samples of anthrax the Pentagon thought were dead, were still alive. The Pentagon says the public was never at risk.
Yes, health officials in Florida have reported nine cases of leprosy so far this year. And yes, armadillos can transmit leprosy. But scientists say we needn't fear the armored mammals.
First case of long-term remission gives scientists new insights into the potential effectiveness of early HIV detection and treatment
Manufacturing and wastewater treatment sites are releasing bisphenol A into the air, exposing people to high levels of the chemical, according to a study
The sheer volume at sporting events and concerts, and on headphones, can damage our ears in ways standard tests can't detect. How can you safeguard your hearing?
To better target its efforts, the agency is identifying problem areas, where people are facing undue environmental risks