New study shows religion aids in self-control

Cross at sunset by Ian Britton
Cross at sunset by Ian Britton

Michael McCullough, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami, has released the results of a study published in the January 2009 Psychological Bulletin that shows people who follow a religion exercise more self-control than those who don’t.

Prof. McCullough compiled evidence regarding religion from various fields of study ranging from economics to neuroscience and the social sciences over a period of eight decades.  The study looked at various people all over the world.  According to ScienceDaily, which reported the findings, the study implies that the ability to chase and fulfill long-term goals has a better success rate among religious people.  Religious people have been shown to do better academically, have fewer run-ins with the law, lower depression rates, and are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.

One of the perspectives Prof. McCullough hopes to highlight from this study is that past studies only focusing on self-control in the study of human behavior have overlooked how religion is linked to one’s health and behavior.  McCullough also states in the ScienceDaily article that “By thinking of religion as a social force that provides people with resources for controlling their impulses (including the impulse for self-preservation, in some cases) in the service of higher goals, religion can motivate people to do just about anything.”

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