Chicken-Fried News: Sexy science? 

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Well, this gives new meaning to the Hozier song “Take Me to Church.”

A study performed by University of Oklahoma assistant professor Samuel L. Perry, Ph.D., and published in The Journal of Sex Research found a correlation between high levels of pornography use and increased prayer and church attendance.

But while clickbait purveyors paint it as porn use making people more religious, Perry said it’s not that simple or conclusive.

“I know many religious people who use pornography that are frustrated and discouraged by it,” he said. “So I started to wonder if I could get longitudinal data about change over time.”

Perry’s study interviewed people in two “waves” six years apart. And while those who rarely or never used pornography were the most religious, findings did show those who viewed porn several times a week in the first wave tended to be more religious by the second wave than those who looked at pornography a moderate amount.

Why? It’s all conjecture at this point, but Perry believes the findings hinge on cognitive dissonance.

Perhaps, in the six years between the first and second interview, people who had been looking at porn frequently were seeking repentance. Or perhaps high pornography use and high prayer and church attendance reflect a personality trait with which all behaviors are compatible.

Perry said he leans toward a pair of conclusions: Either high-level pornography users who were more religious had separated the two acts mentally, ending the dissonance, or feelings of guilt were driving them to religion to compensate for their pornography habits.

Whatever the reason, Perry said there’s still lots more work to do. The study needs to be replicated and more data should be gathered, including one-on-one interviews that could glean insight into the specific reasons for the correlation.

Sorry, clickbait masters. It looks like you’ll have to find another scientific study to skew wildly.

Print headline: Sexy science?

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