Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thoughts of God produce slackers?

There is a new study published on Oct. 24 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that suggests human persons that have thoughts of God produce slackers. Life Science magazine picked up on the study and published this story. Here is a portion of it:

In the new study, the researchers primed more than 350 engineering students with the idea of God or faith, for example, by having participants write a sentence using a list of words with spiritual connotations. Students then completed skill tests in which they had to make as many words as possible from a group of letters. When prompted with religious imagery or language beforehand, the students came up with fewer words, regardless of their spiritual background, than those who hadn't been primed with such imagery.

The researchers think the lack of effort in the "religious-primed" group could be dictated by a belief that fate is in God's hands. If the students believe that God controls their destiny, trying to be better isn't going to help them actually be better, resulting in less effort. This entire thought process seems to be unconscious, but just the presence of these God-conjuring words or images could alter behavior.

A second study tempted participants with cookies after they had read one of two passages one about God and the other on a non-religious topic. Participants who read the God passage not only reported a greater willingness to resist temptation, but also were less likely to help themselves to the cookies.

This effect, however, was found only among participants who had previously said they believe an omniscient entity watches over them and notices when they misbehave, though the strength of their devotion to that God didn't come into play in any of the experiments, the researchers found.

The researchers say like the "Santa Claus" effect, people "behave" because God knows when they've been bad or good. Being reminded of the presence of an all-knowing God helps people resist temptations, for fear they will be "caught" by God and punished, the researchers speculate. [1]

A sober analysis of such a study shows that at least more research needs to be done.

First, engineers have complex issues to deal with and thoughts of God seem to be a minute factor when influencing productivity. A.M Jarkas writes in the Canadian Journal Of Civil Engineering that “Several factors affect labour productivity, but buildability is one of the most important. [2]” Some engineers do seem to pull not from just objective measuring tools as Song and AbouRizk suggest in the Journal Of Construction Engineering & Management saying, “A survey conducted by Motwani et al. _1995_showed that more than 20% of contractors rely on ‘estimators’ ‘gut feelings’ and opinions for the majority of their estimates.” [3] In the end though, I think Jarkas has a point that productivity within engineering is complex and more than one study has has to show that thoughts of God plays as big a factor as this recent study cited in Life Science is making it out to be. Granted, these students are not in engineering yet, but these students will be out of school hopefully most entering the workforce. When they do, if there is a moderate to major inclination towards slacking in ones performance as a person due to thoughts of God that will some raise eyebrows in the engineering community. Time is money in our results driven society(Western culture mainly) which is confirmed by our own experience.

Second, in the general population it seems that there has not been much studying in this area. David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill write in the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling suggesting that:

“Research on the sources of self-efficacy has not considered the effect of religious experience. Depending on one’s approach to religion as well as particular religious beliefs or doctrine, religious experience may either enhance (e.g., the sense of being personally empowered by the Holy Spirit) or hinder (e.g., an exclusive emphasis on the incompleteness and fallenness of human nature) self-efficacy beliefs. [4]” Self-efficacy means: how effective we are. [5]

Third, slackers may contribute to society after all as in Plos Biology author R Meadows writes, “We all have different strengths and a slacker in one context may be a contributing member of society in another. [6]” So if individuals whom are perceived as slackers may not be slacking at all!

In the end, this recent study hardly makes a solid case that thought of God produce slackers. At least, more research needs to be done to corroborate these claims. I, therefore, will continue to have such thoughts of the Almighty, who sent his. Son whom we may have an opportunity to not just have thoughts about him, but a relationship if we believe in what He did on the third day.
Son that we may have a opportunity to not just have thoughts about him, but a relationship if we believe in what He did on the third day.

[1] http://www.livescience.com/16784-thoughts-god-motivation-temptation.html

[2] Jarkas, A. M. (2010). Buildability factors affecting formwork labour productivity of building floors. Canadian Journal Of Civil Engineering, 37(10), 1383-1394.

[3] Song, L., & AbouRizk, S. M. (2008). Measuring and Modeling Labor Productivity Using Historical Data. Journal Of Construction Engineering & Management, 134(10), 786-794. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9364(2008)134:10(786)

[4] David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, 2nd ed., Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999), 1084.

[5]Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[6] Meadows, R. (2010). The Upside of Slackers. Plos Biology, 8(9), 1-2. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000487