Sunday, January 20, 2008

This Should Be Interesting: Saying Psalms

Found in Current Anthropology Volume 48, Number 6, December 2007

Psalms for Safety: Magico-Religious Responses to Threats of Terror

Richard Sosis, Department of Anthropology, U-2176, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-2176, U.S.A. (richard.sosis@uconn.edu). 4 VII 07

Examination of the extent to which women in the northern Israeli town of Tzfat recited psalms to cope with the stress of the Second Palestinian Intifada reveals that knowing someone who was killed in the Intifada, experiencing an income loss, and believing that Tzfat would be attacked by terrorists were strong predictors of psalm recitation among self-identified secular but not religious interviewees. Among secular interviewees who believed that Tzfat would be attacked, psalm recitation was negatively correlated with short- and long-term precautionary behavioral strategies such as caution after an attack and avoiding buses, restaurants, and large crowds. No such relationship was found among religious interviewees, although they were less likely to make precautionary behavioral changes. These findings underscore the importance of magico-religious practices as coping mechanisms that may reduce anxiety and provide perceptions of control under conditions of high stress and uncertainty.

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