Bending and bonding: a randomized controlled trial on the socio-psychobiological effects of spiritual versus secular yoga practice on social bonding

Sarah Charles, Valerie van Mulukom, Ambikananda Saraswati, Fraser Watts, Robin Dunbar, Miguel Farias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Participating in rituals gives rise to exceptional social bonding, but how this happens is not well understood. We assess the roles of four potential mechanisms activated during the rituals which may promote social bonding: (1) the spiritual nature of the ritual, (2) proto-transcendental experiences (i.e., the feeling of connection to something bigger than oneself), (3) mu-opioid receptor activation (measured via a pain proxy), and (4) positive affect. Methods: In this pre-registered, longitudinal (5-week) experiment of ritual in controlled conditions, one group (N = 21) took part in spiritual yoga while another group (N = 19) took part in a behaviourally identical secular version. Multilevel linear modelling was used to analyse the contribution of each of the proposed ritual mechanisms and their interactions. Results: Only positive affect and a proto-transcendental experience significantly predicted levels of social bonding. A follow-up Two-One-Sided-Test found significant evidence of ritual type (spiritual versus secular) having no effect on social bonding. Conclusions: These results suggest that rituals’ social bonding effects are associated with changes in affect and the induction of feelings of connection to something bigger, but not the rituals’ religious/spiritual nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30970-30986
Number of pages17
JournalCurrent Psychology
Volume42
Issue number35
Early online date14 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.

This document is the author’s post-print version, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer-review process. Some differences between the published version and this version may remain and you are advised to consult the published version if you wish to cite from it.

Funder

The study was funded by a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust (Grant number 0153).

Keywords

  • Ritual
  • Spiritual versus secular
  • Yoga
  • Social bonding
  • Positive affect
  • Opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Bending and bonding: a randomized controlled trial on the socio-psychobiological effects of spiritual versus secular yoga practice on social bonding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this