The importance of repetition: ritual as a support to mind

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter suggests that repetitive prayer is intriguing in light of neuropsychological, brain imaging, and even clinical evidence of three distinct neural phenomena: variation in brain functions, cognitive decline in the aging, and diverse strategies for emotional self-management. Complex processes of emotional self-management demonstrate the way that the brain involves systems that can come into conflict, such as motivation and restraint, or emotional excitation and inhibitory capacities. Practices of self-management may involve conscious, well-honed techniques for tipping the internal dynamics of these competitive processes. The use of prayer for emotional self-management offers a way to understand Justin Barrett’s observation that Protestant American students disproportionately petitioned for psychological, emotional, and relational effects. Research on prayer reveals that private religious practice often provides emotional succor in distressing situations and that religiosity may protect physical and mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRitual, performance, and the senses
EditorsMichael Bull, Jon P. Mitchell
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780857854964, 9781003086598
ISBN (Print)9780857854735
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NameSensory Studies Series
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
ISSN (Electronic)2052-3092

Bibliographical note

First published 2015 by Bloomsbiury. Ebook published 18 May 2020 by Routledge.


  • Ritual
  • Neuroanthropology
  • Prayer


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