Nav: Home

Religious actions convey pro-social intent, finds study

August 22, 2016

Religious expression has a central role in societies around the world, but exactly what role it plays isn't always clear. Santa Fe Institute Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow Eleanor Power has an answer: whether it's walking across hot coals or simply going to church on Sunday, people who participate in religious acts send a potent signal to others that they're ready and willing to contribute to their communities.

Power's study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, was designed to test whether a model called signaling theory applied to religion. Signaling theory's key prediction is that people will pay a price in time, money, or even physical pain to demonstrate something to others--in this case, people would engage in religious acts to demonstrate their generosity, devotion, and so on to others.

There's evidence to suggest that regular churchgoers, for example, really are more generous than others. But to demonstrate that signaling theory is part of the answer, it's not enough to prove that people who engage in religious acts also engage in prosocial behavior--you also have to show that others in the community get the message.

Do religious acts get the message across? Power spent two years living in a pair of Tamil villages in southern India studying the question. Based on interviews, formal surveys, and other observations, Power's answer is "yes." She found that those who engaged in more religious action were perceived as more hardworking, more generous, and even stronger compared to others. Interestingly, dramatic acts in the name of religion, such as being pierced by hooks and swung from a crane didn't send the strongest messages--instead, the connection was strongest for the simple act of regular worship. "That has often a bigger effect on your reputational standing than big, extreme acts," Power says.

Also surprising: just how much of an effect religious acts had on others. "These are people who know each other well and have many lines of evidence to draw on, of which religion is just one." Power says. "Given all those other opportunities for observing one another, the fact that there are such strong relationships--it's pretty telling."
-end-


Santa Fe Institute

Related Walking Articles:

How walking benefits the brain
You probably know that walking does your body good, but it's not just your heart and muscles that benefit.
Cycling or walking to and from work linked to substantial health benefits
Active commuting by bicycle is associated with a substantial decrease in the risk of death from all causes, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD), compared with non-active commuting by car or public transport, finds a study in The BMJ today.
Quality of life with those with advanced cancer improved through walking
Walking for just 30 minutes three times per week could improve the quality of life for those with advanced cancer, a new study published in the BMJ Open journal has found.
New walking app could make later life healthier and happier
'Walking for Well-Being', a prototype app that makes it easy to plan less difficult, less demanding walking routes, could help people to stay fit, active and independent as they get older.
Walking faster after stroke, managing chemobrain after cancer
New gate guidelines developed by Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute doubled stroke patients' walking speeds.
Regular walking regimen can improve heart health
Heart disease, the leading cause of death in America, can be combated by implementing a simple walking regimen.
Bariatric surgery associated with improved mobility, less walking pain
Does bariatric surgery for severely obese teens help them gain better mobility and reduce musculoskeletal pain?
First peek into the brain of a freely walking fruit fly
Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California San Diego have developed a technique for imaging brain activity in a freely walking fruit fly.
Good news! You're likely burning more calories than you thought when you're walking
Leading standardized equations that predict the number of calories burned under level walking conditions are relatively inaccurate -- counting too few calories in 97 percent of cases, say researchers at Southern Methodist University, Dallas.
Anxiety can impact people's walking direction
People experiencing anxiety and inhibition have more activity in the right side of the brain, causing them to walk in a leftward trajectory.

Related Walking Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".