Scientific faith: Belief in science increases in the face of stress and existential anxiety

Miguel Farias, Anna Kaisa Newheiser, Guy Kahane, Zoe de Toledo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Citations (Scopus)


Growing evidence indicates that religious belief helps individuals to cope with stress and anxiety. But is this effect specific to supernatural beliefs, or is it a more general function of belief - including belief in science? We developed a measure of belief in science and conducted two experiments in which we manipulated stress and existential anxiety. In Experiment 1, we assessed rowers about to compete (high-stress condition) and rowers at a training session (low-stress condition). As predicted, rowers in the high-stress group reported greater belief in science. In Experiment 2, participants primed with mortality (vs. participants in a control condition) reported greater belief in science. In both experiments, belief in science was negatively correlated with religiosity. Thus, some secular individuals may use science as a form of "faith" that helps them to deal with stressful and anxiety-provoking situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1210-1213
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Belief
  • Belief in science
  • Existential anxiety
  • Religious belief
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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