Social Buffering by God: Prayer and Measures of Stress
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- Belding, J.N., Howard, M.G., McGuire, A.M. et al. J Relig Health (2010) 49: 179. doi:10.1007/s10943-009-9256-8
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Social buffering is characterized by attenuation of stress in the presence of others, with supportive individuals providing superior buffering. We were interested in learning if the implied presence of a supportive entity, God, would reduce acute stress. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: prayer, encouraging self-talk, and control. They were subsequently placed in a stressful situation. Self ratings of stress were lower among the prayer and self-talk conditions relative to controls. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures only among those who prayed were lower than controls; however, prayer and self-talk did not differ. Prayer alone did not significantly reduce stress, perhaps because the majority of students in the prayer condition did not consider reading a prayer to constitute praying.