Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Brain Differences Found Between Believers In God And Non-believers
"You could think of this part of the brain like a cortical alarm bell that rings when an individual has just made a mistake or experiences uncertainty," says lead author Inzlicht, who teaches and conducts research at the University of Toronto Scarborough. "We found that religious people or even people who simply believe in the existence of God show significantly less brain activity in relation to their own errors. They're much less anxious and feel less stressed when they have made an error."
Well, that's interesting. I suppose we could take it a couple ways --as a positive side-effect of belief, letting believers be calmer or less prone to anxiety, and as a negative one which lets them "off the hook" when they make mistakes and thus less likely to be concerned about them or contemplate the consequences of errors. In some places this could be great - making a mistake while cooking dinner or mispronouncing a word aren't going to impact anything, but making a mistake while balancing your checkbook or performing surgery could be disastrous.

If you don't experience anxiety and don't do some introspection when you make an error you will probably make the mistake again and you probably aren't going to make any necessary changes to your behavior. It is also interesting to note that people who have less anxiety tend to make fewer mistakes (well, that's kind of a doh!, isn't it). Of course, crippling anxiety and fear of making mistakes would be just as bad. Off to see if the whole study is available....

You can't read too much into these studies -they tend to be flawed, but I never even realized that we have an "uh-oh!" switch that goes off when we make a mistake or are in a situation where we could make mistakes. That's what that frisson of nerves is!

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