After reading the two secondary sources from the
PROMPT activity, I am reflecting on the
experimental study of how religious belief affects pain and how the
effects of religious imagery were investigated on two groups of participants;
Catholics and non-believers, including atheists and agnostics. All participants
were given electric shocks whilst studying both religious and non-religious
The researchers focused on two areas of the investigation. The first area was
the mood and perception of pain, it was reported that there was a significance
difference in the ratings of mood across the two groups. When shown the image
of the Virgin Mary, the Catholic volunteers rated a more positive mood and a
reduced pain perception. Whereas the non-believer group reported a more
positive mood when shown a non-religious image, however they coped with the
pain equally well with either image.
The second area was the pain-related activity in the brain which was supported
by the MRI scans. The scans showed that the brain activity in both groups was ‘normal’
and that the areas of the brain used for pain processing were activated. It was
reported that there were no differences between either group.
Conversely, when shown the religious imagery, the
Catholic group had more brain activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal
cortex. It had been hypothesised that this part of the brain controls the influence
of pain. The group of non-believers claimed that the non-religious image was preferred,
however this was not supported as there was no increased activity in the right
ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.
This information was easy to find and understand from the secondary source 2,
however I found secondary source 3 to be severely lacking in detail. Secondary
source 3, “Faith in God eases pain’, was a newspaper article and with no
references or any information about the author, it lacks credibility and
therefore I found this source to be unhelpful and unreliable. However,
secondary source 2 “Religious belief and pain relief”, was clear, informative
and the author had remained neutral in the piece of writing. This meant that I,
as the reader, was able to create my own opinion.