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Religious Activities, Religious Orientation, and Aggressive Behavior

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Theorists and clinicians have long believed that religious practice may reduce aggression and other destructive behaviors. To date, most evidence for a relationship between religiosity and aggression comes from nonexperimental studies. The purpose of this exploratory study was twofold. First, to examine experimentally whether two religious practices reduce aggressive behavior; second, to determine if specific aspects of religious orientation and spiritual transcendence are related to level of aggression, expressed under controlled laboratory conditions. Sixty-two participants assigned to one of three experimental groups (memorize Bible passages, prayer/meditation, or control group) completed a laboratory task of aggression. Participants also completed religious and spirituality instruments, along with self-ratings of aggressive disposition. Results indicated that neither memorization of biblical passages nor meditation reduced aggression. Intrinsic-oriented religiosity participants self-reported lower aggression than extrinsic-oriented participants, but no differences were found on the laboratory task of aggression. Spiritual transcendence showed no behavioral aggression differences.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Mark M. Leach, Mitchell E. Berman, and Lea Eubanks are in the Department of Psychology, at the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS.

Publication date: 2008-06-01

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