Religion can Improve Your Self-Control — even if you don’t believe in God or the gods

Robert T. Gonzalez discusses new studies that determine that religion can improve your self-control — even if you don’t believe in God which is a fascinating exploration.

Think your beliefs preclude you from being influenced by religious thoughts? Think again. Psychologists at Queen’s University have demonstrated that test subjects who are primed to think subconsciously about religion — including agnostics and atheists — actually perform better at tasks requiring self-control than those who aren’t.

Sound bizarre? It gets weirder: test subjects who were primed with religion even demonstrated more self-control than those primed with concepts relating to pure morality.
Most people identify with some form of religion, and most religions stress the importance of practicing some degree of self-control.

“When we say ‘self control,'” Queen’s University psychologist Kevin Rounding tells io9, “what we’re talking about is our capacity to refrain from personally desirable actions and impulses, and instead opt for behaviors that are more advantageous by bringing our behavior in line with more socially acceptable standards.”

In the latest issue of Psychology Letters, Rounding and his colleagues describe their efforts to test a hypothesis long-proposed by psychologists like Roy Baumeister and Michael McCullough — researchers who study the emergence of religion and its relationship with self restraint: that religion is a cultural adaptation, one that has benefitted humanity’s fitness throughout the course of evolution by promoting socially beneficial behaviors in the face of adversity.

“If religion does function as a means of cultivating self-control,” the researchers muse, “then even subtle reminders of religious concepts should result in higher levels of self-control.”

Actually, there’s much more to it so be sure to check out the full article at religion can improve your self-control — even if you don’t believe in God.

– Brian