Crystal Park, a professor in the UConn’s Department of Psychological Sciences has received $234,800 from the John Templeton Foundation to study the role of religious beliefs in physical health and well-being.
While all religions have certain traditions and beliefs associated with them, not all followers adhere to beliefs in the same way. Some research suggests that people may hold implicit beliefs — beliefs that they are not consciously aware of — as well as explicit beliefs that are more directly related to formal religious teachings.
Prior research by Park has shown that there are well-established links between religion and spirituality and health through a variety of pathways including finding meaning in life, body sanctification, health behaviors and stress moderation. However, there is a lack of research on how implicit and explicit beliefs differentially influence these associations.
“It is surprising, given how central beliefs are to religions, that there is not more research on them, especially with regard to their psychological effects,” says Park. “We are excited and grateful to have this opportunity to explore these relationships in depth.”
Park will conduct a series of eight studies to develop a measure of implicit and explicit religious beliefs, which will allow her to examine their differences in terms of their impact on mental and physical health. Park will look at whether these different expressions of religiousness are associated with personality, secular beliefs, health and well-being and medical decision making.
This research project will open the door to future studies on the effect of religious beliefs on human behavior and functioning by exploring an under-studied aspect of individual religiousness.
Park received her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 1993. Her research focuses on understanding factors that impact how people cope with and grow from stress and traumatic events. She also investigates mind-body relationships, particularly focusing on the science of yoga.