A new study provides a possible scientific explanation for the existence of stories about ancient saints performing miracles with water.
A new study explores how using positive labels to describe a majority group may negative impact perceptions of minority groups.
- In a recent study published in The Journal of Sex Research, heterosexual people were asked to rate their impressions of fictitious men.
- Some of the fictitious men were described as "heterosexual," the others as "straight."
- Across multiple studies, participants reported worse impressions of gay men after being exposed to the word "straight," but only if the participants were highly religious.
Pixabay<p>In the first study, participants were shown a fictitious Facebook profile belonging to a man named James. All participants read the same profile describing James, except for one difference: Half of the participants read that he was "heterosexual," while the other half read that he was "straight."</p><p>Then, both groups were shown a fictitious Facebook profile of a man named Chris, who was described as gay. The researchers asked participants to rate their impressions of Chris. The results showed that participants who had been recently exposed to the word "straight" tended to report worse perceptions of Chris, however this was true only among participants with higher levels of religiosity and prejudice.</p><p>The researchers conducted the same study again, but this time they included a third group of participants who read a profile of James that didn't describe him as "straight" or "heterosexual."</p><p>The second study produced similar results: Highly religious participants reported worse impressions of Chris after being exposed to the label "straight," although in general there wasn't a significant difference between the three groups ("heterosexual," "straight" and control).</p><p>The first two studies involved participants who commonly used the word "straight" to refer to heterosexual people. But what about cultures that don't use such language?</p>
Credit: Sacchi et al.<p>The researchers decided to conduct a third study in Italy, where people don't use the word "straight" to refer to heterosexual people. In the study, all participants were asked to classify 20 pictures. Ten pictures showed heterosexual couples, while the other ten showed non-romantic partners, such as a pair of police officers.</p><p>The first group of participants was asked to apply the Italian word for "straight" ("retti") to pictures of people in romantic relationships, and to label those who weren't as "other" ("altro"). Meanwhile, the second group was asked to perform the same task, but to label the romantic couples with the Italian word for yellow ("gialli").</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The word "gialli" was selected because this is a common, neutral adjective, related to a visual feature (in this case, color instead of shape) and unrelated to sexual orientation," the researchers wrote.</p><p>Again, the results showed that being exposed to the word "straight" tended to worsen participants' perceptions of gay men — but only for highly religious participants. Interestingly, all three studies showed that participants low in religiosity actually reported better impressions of gay men after reading the word "straight."</p>
Credit: Gwestheimer via Wikipedia<p>The researchers said their study is the first to examine the consequences of using positive language to describe majority groups, and that they hope the results will lead to "fruitful" future research to better understand the effects of positive labeling.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We should remember that modern prejudice is often subtle, indirect, invisible to the perpetrator, and revealed more by ingroup favoritism than explicit outgroup derogation," Sacchi told PsyPost. "In contemporary society, ingroup-directed favoritism and accentuated positive feelings, as sympathy and admiration, toward ingroup members could be the 'modern' basis for discrimination."</p>
After years of speculation a team of researchers has pinpointed the age of this ancient mystery.
- The Plain of Jars consists of over 90 sites containing thousands of jars scattered across Laos.
- According to new research, these jars were constructed sometime between 1240 and 660 BCE.
- In 2019, UNESCO named a cluster of 11 regions as a World Heritage Site.
View to the southwest at megalithic jar Site 1.
Credit: Louise Shewan, et al.<p>Dr. Louise Shewan from the University of Melbourne explains,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"With these new data and radiocarbon dates obtained for skeletal material and charcoal from other burial contexts, we now know that these sites have maintained enduring ritual significance from the period of their initial jar placement into historic times." </p><p>How the jars were moved around Laos remains unknown. As with other ancient mysteries—the various henges around Scotland and England; the interconnected network of cities in the Harappan civilization—understanding the rituals associated with and technologies used to create awe-inspiring monuments remains a dream for many archaeologists. </p><p>The team behind this research plans on examining more samples from these Laotian jars—a particularly daunting challenge considering less than 10 percent of jar sites have been cleared of American explosives. Shewan is excited about the prospects of what further testing could reveal, however. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We expect that this complex process will eventually help us share more insights into what is one of Southeast Asia's most mysterious archaeological cultures."</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Intrinsic religiosity has a protective effect against depression symptoms.
- According to new research, intrinsic religiosity has a protective effect against depression symptoms.
- Religion was only a pipeline, however—a sense of meaning mattered most.
- With increasing rates of depression globally, religion could be a "natural antidepressant" for some.
Religion Is Nature's Antidepressant | Robert Sapolsky<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="696112c3dd6fb7507a8d4e8220f46d8f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/oldj11NEsc0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The question of meaning in life and religion has been a hot topic of late. Leigh Stein <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/opinion/influencers-glennon-doyle-instagram.html" target="_blank">recently pinpointed</a> the emerging trend of influencers being treated as moral authorities, to which she pointed to decreasing faith as a potential reason: void of traditional religion, people are searching for meaning in digital spaces.</p><p>She writes that 22% of millennials now identify as "nones." The broader religious landscape in America has shifted dramatically in the last generation. According to a <a href="https://www.pewforum.org/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/" target="_blank">2019 Pew poll</a>, American adults claiming Christianity dropped 12 points in the last decade. Overall, 26% of adults identify as "none."</p><p>"None" is an umbrella term signifying an atheist, agnostic, or someone not interested in anything in particular. Sometimes this includes dabblers who pull from a variety of traditions without feeling invested in one. Stein noticed that wellness influencers have rushed in to fill a void, intentionally or not. As she writes, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I was once one of those millennials who made politics her religion; I lasted three years as a feminist activist and organizer before I burned out in 2017. That's when I began noticing how many wellness products and programs were marketed to women in pain, and how the social media industry relies on keeping us outraged and engaged. It's no wonder we're seeking relief."</p><p>Shadi Hamid <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/america-politics-religion/618072/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">occupies a similar place</a>, though he identifies tribal political affiliations as the replacement for religion—specifically, to replace meaning. He claims a quarter of American adults qualify as "none," noting that less than half are traditionally religious, i.e. Christan church attendees, based on a <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/248837/church-membership-down-sharply-past-two-decades.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019 Gallup poll</a>. Hamid argues that this pivot occurred when religion left our lives. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"As Christianity's hold, in particular, has weakened, ideological intensity and fragmentation have risen. American faith, it turns out, is as fervent as ever; it's just that what was once religious belief has now been channeled into political belief. Political debates over what America is supposed to mean have taken on the character of theological disputations. This is what religion without religion looks like."</p>
Credit: sutichak / Adobe Stock<p>Hamid believes the Left and Right channel their political-religious hybrids differently: the woke Left repurpose original sin, atonement, ritual, and excommunication as pathways to creating a more just society while the Right has stripped much of the religion from their religion in order to focus their existential angst into blood and soil themes. QAnon, for example, is essentially a religious doctrine, requiring of its devotees the same leaps of faith.</p><p>Stein looks at the politicization of religion—really, the religiosity of politics—as a failure of imagination. Why, she wonders, have people put their faith in memoir-selling, supplement-slinging influencers instead of people who have actually accomplished something in their lives other than turnkey marketing campaigns? Why would we turn to so-called leaders incapable of even attempting to answer life's big questions, or at the very least offer solace in the face of uncertainty, the classical role of religious leaders? </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is a chasm between the vast scope of our needs and what influencers can provide. We're looking for guidance in the wrong places. Instead of helping us to engage with our most important questions, our screens might be distracting us from them. Maybe we actually need to go to something like church?"</p><p>The research team in Brazil might agree. One defining symptom of depression is an inability to foresee a better future. The global number might be 4.4 percent, but in America, the number is <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml" target="_blank">closer to 8 percent</a>. America, now considered the <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/07/07/richest-countries-in-the-world/39630693/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">twelfth wealthiest country in the world</a>, <a href="https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/gk-current-affairs/story/india-is-the-most-depressed-country-in-the-world-mental-health-day-2018-1360096-2018-10-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ranked third</a> in terms of depression. Money is never going to buy happiness. </p><p>Will religion? While the track record is spotty, this new research entertains an intrinsic sense of belief in the sacredness of life as a natural antidepressant, as Robert Sapolsky phrased it. During a time of growing unease, the suspension of disbelief might be what the doctor ordered—for some at least. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Spirituality can be an uncomfortable word for atheists. But does it deserve the antagonism that it gets?
- While the anti-scientific bias of religious fundamentalism requires condemnation, if we take a broader view, does the human inclination towards spiritual practice still require the same antagonism? The answer, I think, is a definitive "No."
- Rather than ontological claims about what exists in the universe, the terms spiritual and sacred can describe the character of an experience. Instead of a "thing" they can refer to an attitude or an approach.
- One can be entirely faithful to the path of inquiry and honesty that is science while making it one aspect of a broader practice embracing the totality of your experience as a human being in this more-than-human world.