Epiphenom has a round-up of research findings about religion and anxiety that jibe well with my pre-existing notions. So take that as a caveat. Items include:
- Kurt Gray has shown that people invoke god as a moral agent to explain negative (but acausal) events.
- Nicholas Epley has shown that making people feel lonely increases their belief in the supernatural – and also makes them more likely to think that household gadgets have personalities!
- Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky have shown that manipulating people so that they feel out of control makes them more inclined to see patterns that aren’t really there.
- On the one hand, Michael Inzlicht has found that religious people have lower ‘error response negativity’. This is the spike in activity in a part of the middle brain that occurs when you make a mistake – it’s the brain warning system. People who have a lower ERN are less anxious about mistakes (anti-anxiety drugs also lower the ERN). On the other hand, another study has shown that something called the ‘Behavioural Inhibition System’ – a deep seated biological response that’s linked to anxiety – is increased in religious people. This suggests that religious people may be inherently more anxious.