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.
A lot of junk nutrition science gets reported in the media. It's a big problem. But did a science journalist's elaborate hoax to expose the crisis go too far?
Scientists find that antiretroviral treatment should be administered before HIV virus has weakened the immune system
Discovery of method for blocking enzyme that spreads cancer cells to bones is described as ‘important progress’ in prevention of secondary stage of disease
It seemed to make sense that the childhood Hib vaccine could cut leukemia risk by keeping the immune system in check. But proving there's cause and effect at work turns out to be a challenge.
A U.K. researcher says the environmental argument for eating bugs isn't working on its own. She says chefs and policymakers must "make insect dishes appeal as food, not just a way to save the planet."
Eating healthy is easier said than done. Same with buying healthy food. Research finds that putting in partitions in grocery carts can increase the likelihood shoppers buy healthy fruits and veggies.
Genetic study could provide hope for men with advanced forms of the disease with findings that could lead to personalised treatments
The agency that administers Obamacare in California moved to make expensive medicines more affordable in 2016. In most plans, patients will pay no more than $150 or $250 a month.
When former prisoners flock together, more land back in jail
Avian influenza is ravaging poultry flocks across the Upper Midwest. The virus is "doing things we've never seen it do before," and understanding about transmission is very limited, a scientist says.