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Prayer helps people feel less aggression and anger

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

In a series of studies, researchers found prayer made people feel less angry and aggressive when confronted with negativity from others. Psychologists at Ohio State University performed three separate experiments showing people who were provoked by other by insults felt less angry after praying for another person.

Prayer may change views of negativity

Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University says, "People often turn to prayer when they're feeling negative emotions, including anger. We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally."

Bushman says the calming effect of prayer was found even for individuals who don’t attend church regularly and aren’t religious.

Three experiments showed prayer lowered aggression

In a series of three experiments, the psychologists tested 53 college students who were subjected to different anger provoking situations. When the researchers compared those who prayed to a control group in each experiment they found prayer made the students feel less angry and aggressive, compared to those who just thought about the situation.

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In each experiment, praying seemed to change the way study participants appraised anger-related situations.

In the study, the researchers noted prayer seems to calm people regardless of religious affiliation, frequency of praying or church attendance. The act seems to help people view negativity less personally Bushman says.

Ryan Bremner of the University of Michigan and Sander Koole of VU University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands also participated in the research pubished online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The students included in the study were all Christian. Each of the three experiments took a different approach. Bushman says, "The effects we found in these experiments were quite large, which suggests that prayer may really be an effective way to calm anger and aggression.”

The authors note the findings would not apply to vengeful or hateful prayers. The study suggests prayer can help people deal with anger, aggression and negative emotions that the researchers say seems to be effective.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin: doi: 10.1177/0146167211402215
“Pray for Those Who Mistreat You”: Effects of Prayer on Anger and Aggression
Ryan H. Bremmer, Sander L. Koole, Brad J. Bushman,