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Relig_self_control_bulletin

Relig_self_control_bulletin - Psychological Bulletin 2009...

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Religion, Self-Regulation, and Self-Control: Associations, Explanations, and Implications Michael E. McCullough and Brian L. B. Willoughby University of Miami Many of the links of religiousness with health, well-being, and social behavior may be due to religion’s influences on self-control or self-regulation. Using Carver and Scheier’s (1998) theory of self-regulation as a framework for organizing the empirical research, the authors review evidence relevant to 6 propositions: (a) that religion can promote self-control; (b) that religion influences how goals are selected, pursued, and organized; (c) that religion facilitates self-monitoring; (d) that religion fosters the development of self-regulatory strength; (e) that religion prescribes and fosters proficiency in a suite of self-regulatory behaviors; and (f) that some of religion’s influences on health, well-being, and social behavior may result from religion’s influences on self-control and self-regulation. The authors conclude with suggestions for future research. Keywords: religion, self-control, self-regulation, motivation, personality Religion is a potent social force. History testifies to religion’s ability to focus and coordinate human effort, to create awe and terror, to foster war and peace, to unify social groups, and to galvanize them against each other. In addition to religion’s social power, however, religion is a psychological force that can influ- ence the outcomes of individual human lives. Indeed, the range of health-related, behavioral, and social outcomes with which reli- giousness is associated is both provocative and puzzling. Consider these well-replicated findings. First, religiousness (measured variously as high levels of traditional religious belief; frequent involvement in religious institutions such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples; and engagement in religious practices such as reading scripture, worship, and prayer) has a small, positive association with longevity. In a meta-analytic re- view of 42 independent effect sizes, McCullough, Hoyt, Larson, Koenig, and Thoresen (2000) discovered that people who were highly religious were, on average, 29% more likely to be alive at any given follow-up point than were less religious people (95% confidence interval: 1.20 to 1.39). In a traditional narrative review of studies considered by the authors to be of high quality (e.g., studies with large, representative samples and adequate statistical control of potential confounds), Powell, Shahabi, and Thoresen (2003) likewise concluded that frequent religious service atten- dance was associated with a 25% reduction in mortality. Studies published after McCullough et al.’s (2000) and Powell et al.’s (2003) reviews have yielded similar conclusions in random samples of U.S. adults (Musick, House, & Williams, 2004); older Mexican Americans (T. D. Hill, Angel, Ellison, & Angel, 2005); and adults in Denmark (la Cour, Avlund, & Schultz-Larsen, 2006), Fin- land (Teinonen, Vahlberg, Isoaho, & Kivela, 2005), and Taiwan (Yeager et al., 2006). These latter studies have also revealed 25% to
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