If you don’t already visit IFLScience daily, there’s a whole new reason why you should – because researchers have found that awe-inspiring science can have a positive effect on your sense of wellbeing.
The recently published paper covers three studies that examined how people view science in a spiritual way, similar to religious spirituality, and how this connects to their wellbeing.
Explaining the premise of the study, lead author Dr Jesse Preston said in a statement, "Spirituality is most often associated with religion, but science can be a powerful source of awe and wonder for many. It can provide a meaningful source of understanding oneself and the universe, and it can foster a sense of connection to others and our place in the world.”
The trio of studies surveyed 1,197 people, with the first study establishing “spirituality of science” as a concept. Participants were asked about their feelings when engaging with science (such as awe, connection, and meaning), as well as their attitudes towards and belief in science and religion.
The researchers found that spirituality of science was associated with feelings of awe and general spirituality, in a way that could be psychologically similar to religious spirituality; the second study aimed to discover if this was the case.
Examining the 526 atheists and agnostics in the survey group, they found that spirituality of science could indeed be predictive of mental wellbeing, like feeling happiness and that there was meaning in life – just as religious spirituality does for some.
This finding has disrupted what researchers thought they knew about the psychological impact of religious versus non-religious spirituality.
"Previous research has found that religious belief generally predicts positive mental wellbeing, but it has also implied that non-religious people may be subject to poorer psychological wellbeing,” said Preston. “This research has found that in fact, sources of spirituality outside of religion, like science, can have similar positive effects."
Spirituality of science could have a positive impact on how science is taught and learnt too. In their third study, the research team looked at how meaningful experiences with science affected engagement with and memory recall of scientific information – and made an interesting discovery.
"People with greater feelings of spirituality of science were more positively engaged with science material, which predicted better science performance,” Preston explained.
Science and religion may sometimes be at loggerheads, but this study suggests there’s more common ground to be had than people might think. As Preston concluded:
"Although science and religion differ in many ways, they share a capacity for spirituality through feelings of awe, coherence, and meaning in life. This capacity for spirituality has some important benefits and implications, as this research has found.”
The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
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