Theology, Taboos, and Creative Thinking

The Huffington Post:

During the 1976 presidential campaign, then-candidate Jimmy Carter famously told Playboy magazine: “I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Carter’s unguarded remarks were published in the November issue, just days before the election, and they caused a broad public uproar. The campaign was already concerned about the appeal of Carter’s Southern Baptist faith, and some believed this candor would tip the balance to the Republican incumbent Gerald Ford.

It didn’t. Carter went on to squeak out a victory, and became the country’s 39th president. But the Playboy interview put evangelical Christianity in the national spotlight. Carter had been paraphrasing Matthew in his talk about lust — specifically the teaching of Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, that mere thoughts can be sinful. How would such beliefs about sin shape Carter’s secular performance as the country’s leader?

Psychological scientist Dov Cohen believes these basic theological differences are psychologically meaningful — and consequential in everyday lives. He and his University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, graduate students, Emily Kim and Nathan Hudson, have been exploring the ways in which religious differences shape our mental processes and behavior. Specifically, they speculate that Protestants’ psychological defenses — how they cope with forbidden and threatening emotions — may lead to more novel and creative thinking.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APS, We’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology. Follow Wray on Twitter @wrayherbert.

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