Applied social science research reaches into lots of related fields - management theory, political science, and marketing are three big ones. CLICK HERE to read about a study from the Standford Graduate School of Business about how thinking about God influences subsequent behavior.
In the study, a group of participants read a Wikipedia entry about God (the EXPERIMENTAL group) while a different group of participants read a Wikipedia entry about something metaphysically neutral (the CONTROL group. Then both groups were asked if they wanted to view something benign, or something a bit more risky (as in, a possibility that it would harm their eyes). The risky choice had a small reward attached.
The study shows that reading about God made people more likely to pick the risky-but-rewarding choice. Interestingly, this was independent of people's beliefs in God.
If you remember the list of "cognitive biases" that we talked about in class, you might recognize this as related to "Knowledge Bias" - the tendency to stick with what you know than to try new things, even if the new thing provides greater reward. Why would thinking about God lead to riskier behavior? Hard to know, off-hand. But that's the thing about science - a good study can inspire follow-up research.
This article is a great introduction to experimental and control groups which we'll discuss on the 24th and 25th.