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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
LUTZ, L. -. (2003). Are Participants Really Happy After Praying or Do They Just Think They Are?. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 28, 2023 .

Are Participants Really Happy After Praying or Do They Just Think They Are?
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
The aim of this experiment is to see if the participants’ happiness levels will change after attending a prayer session. It has been shown by past research attending a church/service/prayer related function can produce positive emotions and decrease some physiological function such as blood pressure, improved immune function and so on. One half of the participants were given a pretest and all were given the posttest. A non-significant trend was found between the pretest and the posttest participants. No significant difference was found between the two posttests. There was no change in the participants levels of happiness. Future research needs to have a better assessment over the location, participants, and the age of the leader for a more complete study.

Three blind men were asked to determine what type of animal was before them. The first blind man touched the tail. The second blind man touched the side of the animal. The third blind man touched the trunk of the animal. Each man then drew completely different conclusions on the nature of the animal. Each believed they had a complete grasp on the subject and they did, but they did only have one part of the subject to grasp. The animal turned out to be an elephant. This fable is an analogy of how physical health, religion, and spirituality intermingle. Past research thought religion and mental or physical health were but one concept. They drew over simplified and conflicting conclusions on the nature of the two. “Gordon Allport (1950) and Carl Jung (1933) treated religion as a conductive to sound mental health. Dittes (1969) concluded that religion and mental health were negatively related.” (as cited in Ventis, 1995) The researchers treated religion and mental health as one-dimensional constructs when in fact they are multidimensional constructs. Searching for the existence of meaning and purpose in our lives usually involves religion and spirituality. Religion is a fixed system of ideas. Spirituality is the personal views on the fixed system of those ideas. (Hill & Pagament, 2003) For the purpose of this study, religion and spirituality will be the personal views of the person because of the multidimensional aspects of this topic. Physical health is the physical well being of a person. Spirituality can impact the physical health of a person. (Miller & Thoresen,2003) Religion/spirituality beliefs may influence health in two processes: (1) recommending specific prescriptions for health maintaining behaviors and (2) supporting cognitions affected by stress appraisal and physiology. (Dull & Skokan, 1995) The cognitions are illusions, perceptions of control, self-enhancement, and optimism. Optimism is the main cognition. Optimistic people have beliefs that are consistent with the idea good things will happen to them. This belief can help people cope with stressful events in their lives. Not only does religion/spirituality help with coping it can also help produce positive emotions. Positive emotions can be triggered in several ways. One way is through attending church/services or praying. By attending or praying on a regular basis there can be an improvement in physical activity, medical check-ups, depression, social interaction, and so on. (Powell, Shahabri, & Thoresen, 2003) A second way religion /spirituality produces positive emotions is physiology. Decreases in blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cholesterol and increases in immune function are some of the ways church/services or praying may help produce more activity and positive emotions. (Seeman, Dubin, & Seeman, 2003) Age, gender, and physical or mental illness may affect why some of these changes take place. For example, an older person may spend more time praying or attending a church/service than a younger person might. The aim of this experiment is to see if the participants’ happiness levels change after attending a prayer session. Many people think they are supposed to feel happier after such an event or they may really feel that way. The hypothesis is the participants’ levels of happiness will be stronger after the prayer session compared to the beginning of the prayer session.

MethodParticipants Thirty participants were used in the study. They attended the Crusades Prayer Session at Missouri Western State College.Materials The participants were given the Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS). The scale comes from the University of Pennsylvania website. (Lyubomirsky, 1999) The scale has four questions on it. One of the items is reversed keyed. An example of an item is “In general, I consider myself.” A seven-point scale is used to determine if the person is a very happy person (7) to not a very happy person (1). (Appendix A)Procedure At the start of the Crusades prayer session thirty participants volunteered to participate in this study. The participants were divided into halves. The first (15 participants) were given the Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS). Participants were asked to write their initials at the top of the page. I picked up all the surveys individually to protect their privacy. The prayer session started and continued for about an hour. After the hour was up the surveys were passed out again. The surveys were then passed out to all thirty participants in the group. Participants were asked to write their initials at the top of the page. I picked up each survey individually again after the participants were finished with them. The initials at the top of the page were only for identifying who took the survey twice.

A paired-samples t test was calculated to compare the mean pretest scores to the mean posttest scores on the Subjective Happiness Scale. The mean on the pretest was 22.3 (sd = 3.06) and the mean on the posttest was 23.3 (sd = 2.9). A non-significant trend was found from the pretest to the posttest (t(14) = .131, p > .05) (Figure 1) An independent-samples t test was calculated comparing the mean scores of participants who took posttest as well as the pretest to the mean of the participants who only took the posttest. No significant difference was found (t(28) = -.735, p >.05). The mean of the participants who took the posttest as well as the pretest (m = 22.4, sd = 3.9) was not significant differently from the mean of the participants who only took the posttest (m = 23.3, sd = 2.8). (Figure 2)

The hypothesis was not supported by the results. The participants’ levels of happiness were not stronger after the prayer session compared to the beginning of the prayer session. A paired-samples t test was calculated showing a non-significant trend between the participants pretest and posttest. An independent t test was also calculated showing no significant difference between the participants who took the posttest as well as the pretest and the participants who only took the posttest. There was a slight increase in the pretest and posttest scores (Figure 1), but there was no relationship between the two posttests. (Figure 2) The findings were not consist with previous literature. By attending church/service or praying on a regular basis there can be improved emotions (Powell, Shahabri, & Thoresen, 2003). Happiness levels of the participants did not a change.This may be accounted for by the age or gender of the participants. Younger people are less likely to spend time praying (Seeman, Dubin, & Seeman, 2003). There were limitations in this study. The first limitation was the type of participant. The participants were a very select group pf people. There was no comparison group. The second limitation is the limited number of participants. There were only 30 participants. In addition, the male participants out numbered the female participants. This could have impacted on the results. The third limitation is the survey. There were only four questions, which were very similar in nature. The participants could have tired of answering the same question. The fourth limitation could have been me, the experimenter. The participants’ answers on the pretest and posttest were different but not enough to be significant. (Figure 1) The slight increase could be explained if they answered, they were happy because they or I thought they were expected to answer that way. The validity of this experiment was not great. Externally, there were a low number of participants. More participants were definitely needed. Internally, there was hardly any control and there was not much randomization of the participants. However, this would have been hard to do because the participants were already a select group. The experiment also could not take place in the laboratory. The study had to be conducted in the field to get a true answer, so not much could be controlled expect for the way I presented myself. Future research is needed to make more of a comparison between prayer and happiness. More participants and the choice of place where the prayer session takes place might also make a big difference. One major difference would be the type of leader leading the prayer session. The participants, the leader, and myself were generally in the same age range. An older leader might have a different impact on the participants. The location, type of participants, and the leader all need to be better accessed for a more complete study.

Dull, V. T., & Skakan, L. A. (1995). A cognitive model of religion’s influence on health. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 49-64.Hill, P. C., & Pargament, K. I. (2003). Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: implications of physical and mental health research. American Psychologist, 58, 64-74.Larson, D. B., & Larson, S.S. (2003). Spirituality’s potential relevance to physical and emotional health: a brief review of quantitative research. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 31, 37-51.Miller, W. R., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Spirituality, religion, and health: an emerging research field. American Psychologist, 58, 24-35.Powell, L. H., Shahabi, L., & Thoresen, C. E. (2003). Religion and spirituality: linkages to physical health. American Psychologist, 58, 36-52.Seeman, T. E., Dubin, L. F., & Seeman, M. (2003). Religion/spirituality and health: a critical review of the evidence for biological pathways. American Psychologist, 58, 53-63.Ventis, W. L. (1995). The relationships between religion and mental health. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 33-48

Figure 1. The mean of the pretest and posttest for the happiness scale.

Figure 2. The mean of the two posttest on the happiness scale.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Appendix A

Submitted 11/24/2003 10:03:09 AM
Last Edited 11/25/2003 10:26:41 AM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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