Although some religious teachings have been used to justify aggression, most religious teachings promote peace in human affairs. Three experiments tested the hypothesis that praying for others brings out the more peaceful side of religion by reducing anger and aggression after a provocation. In Experiment 1, praying for a stranger led provoked participants to report less anger than control participants who thought about a stranger. In Experiment 2, provoked participants who prayed for the person who angered them were less aggressive toward that person than were participants who thought about the person who angered them. In Experiment 3, provoked participants who prayed for a friend in need showed a less angry appraisal style than did people who thought about a friend in need. These results are consistent with recent evolutionary theories, which suggest that religious practices can promote cooperation among nonkin or in situations in which reciprocity is highly unlikely. © 2011 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
Bremner, R., Koole, S. L., & Bushman, B. J. (2011). "Pray for those who mistreat you": Effects of prayer on anger and aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(6), 830-837. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167211402215