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Surprising Science

Thinking of God Makes People Bolder Risk-Takers

When people are reminded of God, they are more ready to engage in risky behavior, but not morally wrongful behavior.

When people are reminded of God, they are more ready to engage in risky behavior, but not morally wrongful behavior.

Isha Aran from Fusion reports on a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science that sought to find out how far 900 online participants could be pushed toward unsafe activities while God was in their thoughts. How much risky behavior would participants engage in knowing God could possibly protect them from negative outcomes?

In order to remind participants of God, researcher gave some of the volunteers a word scramble puzzle that contained God-related references or had them read a paragraph about God. The researchers found that those who were reminded of God were more likely to consider engaging in risky behavior than participants who were not prompted to think about God.

In one instance, participants could choose to receive a small monetary bonus for looking at a bright color that could damage their eyes or look at a safe, dark color with no risks. Of the participants who were reminded of God, 95 percent were willing to look at the bright color, compared to the 84 percent who were not prompted to think of God.

The results became increasingly clear in another experiment where participants were asked to click on one of three ads. One contained immoral risk (“Learn how to bribe”), another nonmoral risk (“Find skydiving near you”), and the last was an ad for a video game, which had no risk. The ads were split, some mentioning God whereas others had no reference of the almighty.

There was a clear divide. Participants were more likely to click on the skydiving ad if it mentioned God, but less so when God was mentioned in the bribing ad. Participants clicked the video game ad the same number of times, regardless of whether it had a reference to God or not.

Daniella Kupor, one of the researchers on the study said of the findings in a press release:

“We were surprised to find that even a simple colloquial expression — ‘God knows what you’re missing’ — influences whether people click on a real online ad that is promoting a risky behavior.”

The researchers also reported that participants who were reminded of God were also more likely to blame Him when things didn’t go their way in a risk-related game. This outcome has lead researchers to suggest that some people perceive that God provides them with some security or protections, which makes a risky situation less threatening.

Read more at Fusion.

Photo credit: Jon Rawlinson/Flickr


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