A recent study led by UofT’s own Assistant Psychology Professor Michael Inzlicht has shown brain activity differences between believers and non-believers.
Results indicate that believers show markedly less activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that helps modify behavior by signaling when attention and control are needed. For instance, a believer will show less stress and anxiety (and brain activity) when making a mistake or error, as compared to a non-believer. An increase in the belief of God was shown to correlate to decreased ACC activity.
Although this calming effect is considered to be beneficial to some, it is a “double edged sword” says Inzlicht. “Obviously, anxiety can be negative because if you have too much, you’re paralyzed with fear. However, it also serves a very useful function in that it alerts us when we’re making mistakes. If you don’t experience anxiety when you make an error, what impetus do you have to change or improve your behaviour so you don’t make the same mistakes again and again?”