This study helps explain cognitive processes involved in religious conviction

 

What if?

What if you hadn’t taken a class with the stranger who became your partner? Or gotten that career-altering job? Or met the mentor who shepherded you through hard times?

This kind of thinking — about what life might have been like if a certain positive event had not happened — can strengthen a person’s belief in God, according to a study published in this month’s Social Psychological and Personality Science.

That’s because imagining alternatives leads people to think those events didn’t happen by chance, researchers said in a news release from the journal.

Here’s how the study worked: Researchers asked American participants to write essays about an important life event. Then, a third were asked to imagine how life might better. Another third was instructed to consider how life might be worse, and the last third was told simply to describe the event in more detail.

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