Faith healing and mind stealing
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was the window Uffe Schjødt used to peer into the brains of 20 Pentecostalists and 20 non-believers listening to 18 different recorded prayers.
Andy Coghlan of New Scientist writes:
The volunteers were told that six of the prayers were read by a non-Christian, six by an ordinary Christian and six by a healer. In fact, all were read by ordinary Christians.
Among the devout, parts of the brain which play important roles in vigilance and skepticism tended to be markedly less active when they were listening to prayers by someone identified as [but who was not] a Christian with healing powers.
Asked about the speakers, Pentacostalists verified the fMRI findings by giving their highest rankings to speakers identified as Christians with healing powers [note the graph at right]. Thus suggesting, as Schjødt observed, that Pentacostalists effectively handed themselves over to those merely identified as Christian healers.
These observations point to an important mechanism of authority that may facilitate charismatic influence, a mechanism which is likely to be present in other interpersonal interactions as well.
Simply that we imperil ourselves and others when we allow our protective vigilance and skepticism to be turned off.
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