Saturday, August 07, 2010
Brain Study Shows That Thinking About God Reduces Distress -- But Only for Believers
Inzlicht discovers the power of faith! He generally seems to dislike what his research shows but he seems fairly resigned to it this time. He manages another one of his absurd inferences at the end, though
Thinking about God may make you less upset about making errors, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The researchers measured brain waves for a particular kind of distress-response while participants made mistakes on a test. Those who had been prepared with religious thoughts had a less prominent response to mistakes than those who hadn't.
"Eighty-five percent of the world has some sort of religious beliefs," says Michael Inzlicht, who cowrote the study with Alexa Tullett, both at the University of Toronto Scarborough. "I think it behooves us as psychologists to study why people have these beliefs; exploring what functions, if any, they may serve."
With two experiments, the researchers showed that when people think about religion and God, their brains respond differently -- in a way that lets them take setbacks in stride and react with less distress to anxiety-provoking mistakes. Participants either wrote about religion or did a scrambled word task that included religion and God-related words. Then the researchers recorded their brain activity as they completed a computerized task -- one that was chosen because it has a high rate of errors. The results showed that when people were primed to think about religion and God, either consciously or unconsciously, brain activity decreases in areas consistent with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), an area associated with a number of things, including regulating bodily states of arousal and serving an alerting function when things are going wrong, including when we make mistakes.
Interestingly, atheists reacted differently; when they were unconsciously primed with God-related ideas, their ACC increased its activity. The researchers suggest that for religious people, thinking about God may provide a way of ordering the world and explaining apparently random events and thus reduce their feelings of distress. In contrast, for atheists, thoughts of God may contradict the meaning systems they embrace and thus cause them more distress.
"Thinking about religion makes you calm under fire. It makes you less distressed when you've made an error," says Inzlicht. "We think this can help us understand some of the really interesting findings about people who are religious. Although not unequivocal, there is some evidence that religious people live longer and they tend to be happier and healthier." Atheists shouldn't despair, though. "We think this can occur with any meaning system that provides structure and helps people understand their world." Maybe atheists would do better if they were primed to think about their own beliefs, he says.
Sarkozy’s crackdown on Gypsies begins
Not before time. Gypsies can be an incredible nuisance to the rest of the community
French police forcibly moved more than 100 gipsies from an illegal squatter camp as the authorities launched a campaign ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy to clear up encampments. Officers moved in before dawn to seal off the squatter camp, where the local authorities had installed water standpipes and chemical lavatories near the central city of Saint Etienne. The operation took several hours.
The French president announced tough new security measures last month that included plans to dismantle 300 unauthorised camps in three months.
In addition to the destruction of camps, a squad of tax inspectors has been set up to target hidden wealth in the community. Brice Hortefeux, the interior minister, has raised suspicions over the owners of “caravans pulled by certain powerful cars”.
Shortly after launching his measures aimed at gipsies, Mr Sarkozy announced plans to target members of other minority groups, promising to strip French nationality from certain categories of foreign-born criminals.
Opinion polls this week showed that 79 per cent of voters approved of measures to dismantle the camps. Similar majorities backed other aspects of his law and order policy.
Mr Sarkozy has pledged that those foreign gipsies who had committed crimes would be deported to their countries of origin - mainly Romania.
There are estimated to be 15,000 gipsies and Roma of Eastern European origin in France. Some live in authorised encampments, but many are in squatter camps or abandoned buildings.
Last month, a group of gipsies rioted after one of their number was shot dead by police during a car chase in Saint-Aignan, central France.
Mr Sarkozy is likely to bolster his standing in the opinion polls by taking a tough stance on minorities. The Socialist opposition party has been cautious about opposing the measures.
Anti-military bigotry in Britain
A soldier who had just arrived home from Afghanistan was refused service at a supermarket and told they didn't serve people in Army uniform. Sapper Anthony Walls called into a branch of the Co-op for some beers after a gruelling 34-hour journey from Kandahar.
The 27-year-old, of 21 Engineer Regiment, said it was his 'first hour back in the real world' after dodging Taliban bullets for four-and-a-half months helping build 'the most dangerous road in Afghanistan'. But when he arrived at the till he says he was met with a blank stare from the cashier who refused to serve him and called for her manager.
The manager told Mr Walls he 'couldn't do anything about it' and refused to serve him while he was in uniform. The soldier - who was on his way to his three-year-old nephew Jack's birthday party - walked out of the shop in New Addington, Croydon, in a daze. 'I was deeply hurt,' he said yesterday. 'All I was thinking about was getting home to Jack in time to wish him a happy birthday.
'It was great to be home after a difficult journey and I just thought I'd grab a couple of beers - a luxury I hadn't had in a while. 'But when I came to pay the cashier refused to serve me and rang her bell. A male supervisor came along and the cashier explained she was refusing to serve me because I was in uniform.
'He looked at me and said "I can't do anything about it". I put the beer down and walked out. I was shocked.'
Mr Walls, who joined up when he was 17, said it was 'tough' in Afghanistan and that he had witnessed the death of one of his best friends, Sapper Daryn Roy, who died at the age of 28 in an IED explosion in May. He added: 'Sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is the support and love from home.
'I appreciate the Co-op cashier may have had her own opinions about the war, but we are just doing a job and laying our lives down for this country. A little respect and appreciation would be nice.'
Mr Walls's sister Claire Lloyd, 33, said she was 'disgusted' at her brother's treatment at the Co-op store on July 17.
The mother of four added: 'I am so proud of Anthony. He works hard and willingly puts his life on the line every day. 'Anthony and his colleagues are the unsung heroes of this country. They deserve the respect and civility extended to anyone else in a uniform.'
A spokesman at the Co-op's headquarters in Manchester said the incident had been a 'genuine mistake on the part of our two members of staff' and apologised for how Mr Walls, who flew back out to Afghanistan this week, was treated.
The spokesman added: 'This had nothing to do with anyone being against the war in Afghanistan. It's a simple case of a misunderstanding of company policy.
'Years ago we had a policy which meant we wouldn't serve police officers in uniform, but that is no longer the case. The cashier thought she was doing the right thing.' [Believe that if you like]
Sydney Anglicans oppose homosexual adoption
It may seem surprising to see a display of spine from any diocese in communion with the Church of England but this is the Sydney diocese, where Anglican priests can still wholeheartedly assent to the traditional 39 "Articles of Religion" of the CofE. And I don't think it is much of a guess to say that they all would have read Leviticus 20:13 and Romans chapter 1
THE MAIN adoption agency for infants in Sydney, Anglicare, has written to state MPs urging them to vote against a bill that would allow same-sex couples to adopt when it is debated in Parliament later this month.
The chief executive of Anglicare, Peter Kell, cites a child's need for both a mother and father among the 11 reasons why same-sex couples should not be given the same rights as heterosexual couples under adoption law.
"Men and women complement each other in their parenting roles as a result of their inherent physical, psychological and emotional attributes. Adoptive children should not be denied this opportunity," Mr Kell said.
The Independent MP Clover Moore said her amendments to the Adoption Act would overcome the "double standards" that allow gay and lesbian individuals to adopt, but not homosexual couples. Same-sex couples are also used as foster carers by the Department of Community Services.
Ms Moore said in the vast majority of cases, same-sex adoptions will involve step-parenting situations and "known" adoptions, where the child already has a relationship with the parent, such as a foster carer.
However, Mr Kell denied there was a double standard in same-sex couples being permitted to foster but not adopt, arguing "a cautious approach is required where the decision is irreversible".
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby says the Adoption Act is the last piece of state legislation that directly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children.
Last year, a Legislative Council committee recommended by a narrow margin that same-sex couples be allowed to adopt.
However, the committee also said faith-based adoption agencies should be exempt from anti-discrimination legislation, so long as they refer any same-sex couples who seek their services to another adoption agency.
Two of the three government-accredited adoption agencies in NSW, Anglicare and CatholicCare, have threatened to stop providing adoption services if they were forced to facilitate adoption by homosexual couples.
The 2006 census shows there about 1500 children living in same-sex families in NSW.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.