Jump directly to the content

The Road to Resolutions

It's reportedly paved with high religiosity, say two Florida psychologists.

Christianity Today readers, or those like them, may have more success keeping those quick-to-fade (and out of vogue?) New Year's resolutions than secular or "spiritual but not religious" peers. That's the conclusion of John Tierney's recent New York Times piece about the high correlation between personal religiosity and self-control.

Michael McCullough and Brian Willoughby are two psychologists at the University of Miami interested in religion professionally but who "personally . . . don't get down on the field much," quips McCullough. They just published the results of their 8-year study testing the hypothesis that religion gives people internal strength in Psychological Bulletin. McCullough and Willoughby concluded that the "controls" of religious belief typically used to explain religious folk's emphasis on morality - guilt, fear of punishment, exclusion from a worshiping community - do not fully account for their ability to resist temptation.

"Brain-scan studies have shown that when people pray or meditate, there's a lot of activity in two parts of the brain that are important for self-regulation and control of attention and emotion," McCullough said. "The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control."

According to McCullough, even individuals who go along with a worshiping community's organized rituals, but who don't necessarily subscribe to the beliefs taught there (the "extrinsically religious"), will not be able to practice self-discipline as much as those who go but actually absorb what is taught ("intrinsically religious").

So the conclusion of this study: Those who believe their actions, words, and decisions have meaning beyond immediate ramifications and what's now visible put more weight on their actions, words, and decisions. Makes sense to this terribly unscientific thinker.

Read the study here, and take CT's poll on New Year's resolutions.

Related Topics:None
Posted:December 31, 2008 at 11:54AM
Gleanings aggregates what others are reporting. Learn more.

Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.
Login
or
Subscribe
or
Register
Recent Posts
James Dobson's Birthday Gift: Latest Court Victory Over Obamacare Contraception
In shadow of Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby hearing, judge rules in favor of Family Talk.
Bill Gothard Breaks Silence on Harassment Claims by 30 Women
(UPDATED) Popular seminar speaker: 'I have failed to live out some of the very things that I have taught.'
New Poverty-Fighting Alliance Launches
World Relief, Germany-based PartnerAid combine to grow programs, donor base.
Bible Society Takes 'More Accurate and Hopeful' Stance on Scripture Skeptics
(UPDATED) No more 'Bible antagonists,' among many findings in this year's ABS/Barna 'State of the Bible' report.