Rituals boost self-control

Temple prayer in Bali – complex ritual can improve self-controlMaybe you’ve heard of the “marshmallow experiment” for testing people’s self-control. In this classic psychology study, scientists offered young children a choice: either eat a single marshmallow immediately, or wait for a few minutes and get to eat two. Findings have shown a remarkable correlation between children’s ability to delay gratification and a plethora of positive outcomes later in life, from higher SAT scores to better physical health. But where does self-control come from in the first place? A new study published in the journal Child Development suggests that one answer may be “rituals.” Specifically, children who played a complex, ritualized game many times over a three-month span showed improved self-control afterwards – and, crucially, this effect was strongest for children who heard no practical justification for the game’s rules. [Read more…]

The religious may fare better when the going gets tough

Jonathan Morgan


There’s no shortage of research on religion and health. Most of it suggests that the religious not only live longer, but are also likely to live better. Yet in spite of this abundance of research there’s still little to explain precisely why religion is related to health. Ferreting out the cause is a difficult task, but new research out of this field suggests that self-regulation may be an important piece of the reason.

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