(Psychology) 신앙이 자제력을 강하게 해주나?

CAN RELIGIOUS FAITH HELP SELF-CONTROL?
  조회:  7,648   등록 일자: December 29   카테고리: 
By JOHN TIERNEY ⓒ 2008 New York Times News Service (요약) 2009년의 신년 맹서를 정말 지켜야 되겠다고 생각한다면, 내가 또 하나의 맹서를 추가해야 되는 것일까? 꼭 해야 할 일 리스트에 “교회에 다니기 시작할 것”을 올려할 것인가? 불신자인 나로서는 이것은 대단히 하기 거북한 질문이다. 그러나 곧 나올 ‘심리학 불리틴’ (Psychological Bulletin)에 마이클 매컬러프(Michael McCullough)가 쓴 논문을 읽고 나니 그러한 질문을 그에게 던질 수밖에 없었다. 매컬러프와 마이애미 대학에서 함께 일하고 있는 동료 심리학자 브라이언 윌러비(Brian Willoughby)는 지난 80년 동안에 이루어진 리서치를 종합한 결과 종교적 믿음과 깊은 신앙심은 ‘셀프 컨트롤’(self-control: 자제력)을 강화한다는 결론을 얻은 것이다. 그러한 결론은 내가 초등학교 때 선생으로 모신 수녀들의 결론과 흡사하기 때문에 불편하게 느껴졌다. 그러나 매컬러프 박사는 기독교 전도에 나설 의향은 전연 없는 사람이다. 그는 자기가 종교적 신앙이 별로 없음을 자백하고 있다. 그는 “종교를 따진다면, 직업적으로는 내가 하나의 팬이지만 개인적으로 경기장에 실지로 뛰어드는 일은 별로 없는 타입이다”라고 말하고 있다. “신앙심이 강한 사람들이 자제력이 더 강하다는 착실한 증거 자료가 있는 것인지를 우리는 알아보기로 한 것이다”라고 매컬러프 박사는 말했다. “여러 해 동안 사회과학자들이 종교를 연구한다는 것은 ‘쿨’한 것이 못 된다는 취급을 받아 왔다. 그러나 러서처들은 수 십 년간 종용히 연구를 계속해 왔다. 그런 연구 결과를 종합해 볼 때 신앙심과 강한 자제력 간에 상관관계가 있다는 결론들이 놀라울 정도로 일관성 있게 드러나고 있다.” (영어 텍스트) If I’m serious about keeping my New Year’s resolutions in 2009, should I add another one? Should the to-do list include, “Start going to church”? This is an awkward question for a heathen to contemplate, but I felt obliged to raise it with Michael McCullough after reading his report in the upcoming issue of the Psychological Bulletin. He and a fellow psychologist at the University of Miami, Brian Willoughby, have reviewed eight decades of research and concluded that religious belief and piety promote self-control. This sounded to me uncomfortably similar to the conclusion of the nuns who taught me in grade school, but Dr. McCullough has no evangelical motives. He confesses to not being much of a devotee himself. “When it comes to religion,” he said, “professionally, I’m a fan, but personally, I don’t get down on the field much.” His professional interest arose from a desire to understand why religion evolved and why it seems to help so many people. Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier. These results have been ascribed to the rules imposed on believers and to the social support they receive from fellow worshipers, but these external factors didn’t account for all the benefits. In the new paper, the Miami psychologists surveyed the literature to test the proposition that religion gives people internal strength. “We simply asked if there was good evidence that people who are more religious have more self-control,” Dr. McCullough said. “For a long time it wasn’t cool for social scientists to study religion, but some researchers were quietly chugging along for decades. When you add it all up, it turns out there are remarkably consistent findings that religiosity correlates with higher self-control.” As early as the 1920s, researchers found that students who spent more time in Sunday school did better at laboratory tests measuring their self-discipline. Subsequent studies showed that religiously devout children were rated relatively low in impulsiveness by both parents and teachers, and that religiosity repeatedly correlated with higher self-control among adults. Devout people were found to be more likely than others to wear seat belts, go to the dentist and take vitamins. But which came first, the religious devotion or the self-control? It takes self-discipline to sit through Sunday school or services at a temple or mosque, so people who start out with low self-control are presumably less likely to keep attending. But even after taking that self-selection bias into account, Dr. McCullough said there is still reason to believe that religion has a strong influence. “Brain-scan studies have shown that when people pray or meditate, there’s a lot of activity in two parts of brain that are important for self-regulation and control of attention and emotion,” he said. “The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control.” In a study published by the University of Maryland in 2003, students who were subliminally exposed to religious words (like God, prayer or bible) were slower to recognize words associated with temptations (like drugs or premarital sex). Conversely, when they were primed with the temptation words, they were quicker to recognize the religious words. “It looks as if people come to associate religion with tamping down these temptations,” Dr. McCullough said. “When temptations cross their minds in daily life, they quickly use religion to dispel them from their minds.” In one personality study, strongly religious people were compared with people who subscribed to more general spiritual notions, like the idea that their lives were “directed by a spiritual force greater than any human being” or that they felt “a spiritual connection to other people.” The religious people scored relatively high in conscientiousness and self-control, whereas the spiritual people tended to score relatively low. “Thinking about the oneness of humanity and the unity of nature doesn’t seem to be related to self-control,” Dr. McCullough said. “The self-control effect seems to come from being engaged in religious institutions and behaviors.” Does this mean that nonbelievers like me should start going to church? Even if you don’t believe in a supernatural god, you could try improving your self-control by at least going along with the rituals of organized religion. But that probably wouldn’t work either, Dr. McCullough told me, because personality studies have identified a difference between true believers and others who attend services for extrinsic reasons, like wanting to impress people or make social connections. The intrinsically religious people have higher self-control, but the extrinsically religious do not. So what’s a heathen to do in 2009? Dr. McCullough’s advice is to try replicating some of the religious mechanisms that seem to improve self-control, like private meditation or public involvement with an organization that has strong ideals. Religious people, he said, are self-controlled not simply because they fear God’s wrath, but because they’ve absorbed the ideals of their religion into their own system of values, and have thereby given their personal goals an aura of sacredness. He suggested that nonbelievers try a secular version of that strategy. “People can have sacred values that aren’t religious values,” he said. “Self-reliance might be a sacred value to you that’s relevant to saving money. Concern for others might be a sacred value that’s relevant to taking time to do volunteer work. You can spend time thinking about what values are sacred to you and making New Year’s resolutions that are consistent with them.” Of course, it requires some self-control to carry out that exercise — and maybe more effort than it takes to go to church. “Sacred values come prefabricated for religious believers,” Dr. McCullough said. “The belief that God has preferences for how you behave and the goals you set for yourself has to be the granddaddy of all psychological devices for encouraging people to follow through with their goals. That may help to explain why belief in God has been so persistent through the ages.” (ⓒ 2008 The New York Times) (ⓒ 2008 www.usabriefing.net)
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