posted on Jul, 8 2010 @ 05:02 AM
A series of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who were asked whether they would die for their
faith or support their country going to war in its defence were more likely to say yes when they were in anxiety-provoking situations.
The anxiety-provoking situations included being given complex mathematical problems, considering a dilemma in one's personal life, or mulling over
uncertainties in a relationship. In all the studies, people who had been exposed to the anxiety-inducing scenario were more extreme in their religious
convictions and more enthusiastically attached to their ideals than those who had been in neutral situations.The scientists also found that religious
zeal was most pronounced among people who were already vulnerable to anxiety and who felt hopeless about achieving their goals in daily life.
Professor Ian McGregor of York University's psychology department, who led the research, said that a psychological phenomenon called "Reactive
Approach Motivation" is behind the findings. He told Science Daily: "Approach motivation is a tenacious state in which people become 'locked and
loaded' on whatever goal or ideal they are promoting.
"They feel powerful, and thoughts and feelings related to other issues recede.
"By simply promoting ideals and convictions in their own minds, people can activate approach motivation, narrow their motivational focus away from
anxious problems, and feel serene as a result."
Earlier research by the same team found that strong religious beliefs are associated with low activity in the part of the brain that controls anxiety,
the anterior cingulate cortex.
Prof McGregor says: "Taken together, the results of this research program suggest that bold but vulnerable people gravitate to idealistic and
religious extremes for relief from anxiety."