"References to God pervade daily life. In fact, the word 'God' is one of the most common nouns in the English language."The fact that reminders of God are so ubiquitous suggests that this effect may impact a large number of people," said lead researcher Daniella Kupor of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Many previous studies had indicated that religiosity and participation in religious activities are associated with decreases in people's engagement in risky behaviours like substance abuse and gambling, but Kupor and her colleagues noticed that the risks examined in these studies tended to share a negative moral component.

The researchers hypothesised that thinking about God may have a different effect in relation to risks that have no moral connotation, since people tend to view God as a source of protection and security.
People clicked about the same number of times on the computer games ad, with or without a mention of God.

"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 behaviour," Kupor said.

The study was published in Psychological Science.

 

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