A new paper published in the journal Psychological Science takes a look at the impact that thoughts of God can have on a person’s risk-taking behavior, and the results are interesting. The Stanford University researchers were particularly interested in the impact religion might have on behaviors when the moral component was removed.
While previous research has linked religiosity or spirituality with a decrease in behaviors like alcoholism, head researcher Daniella Kupor and her team wanted to know if the decrease was linked to religion’s moral imperatives against such behavior, or if spirituality and religiosity lowered risk-taking in general.
To answer that question, the team examined participants’ responses to both morally neutral and morally negative risky behaviors, along with non-risky behaviors. The responses were gauged both with and without religious references. The results reaffirmed the link between religion and risky behaviors typically deemed immoral… but where moral judgment was neutral, thoughts of God seemed to actually increase risk-taking: