Economists find mixed values of 'thoughts and prayers'

phys.org | 1/7/2013 | Staff
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Groundbreaking research by a University of Wyoming economist has shed new light on the controversial topic of the value of "thoughts and prayers" in response to natural and human-caused disasters.

An experiment led by Assistant Professor Linda Thunstrom, of the Department of Economics in UW's College of Business, found that Christians who suffer such adversity value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers, while atheists and agnostics believe they are worse off from such gestures. The research appears in the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Effect - Recipient - Welfare - Thoughts - Prayers

"The net effect on recipient welfare from thoughts and prayers depends on how recipients perceive to benefit from such intercessory gestures," says Thunstrom, who conducted the research in conjunction with former UW sociology faculty member Shiri Noy, now with Denison University in Ohio.

The debate over the value of "thoughts and prayers" has come to the forefront as a result of the verbal responses of political and other leaders to mass shootings and natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires. Some critics argue that expressing sympathy through thoughts and prayers is a meaningless gesture in response to tragedy—and that, in some cases, it's an excuse to not take action.

Thunstrom - Noy - Study - Values - Thoughts

Thunstrom and Noy's study placed actual economic values on thoughts on prayers through an experimental survey of victims of hurricane Florence in North Carolina last year. They found that, from the perspective of Christian hurricane victims, the monetary value of prayers by others on their behalf was significant. Meanwhile, atheists and agnostics were actually "prayer-averse," placing a negative...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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