Loss Aversion Religion
Posted on March 23, 2019 by Diana Roberts
Loss aversion religion such as Christianity increases personal stress and anxiety.
People evaluate outcomes as gains and losses, and see losses loom larger than gains. So, while “God is love” he loves us only if we follow the mandates of the Old and New Testament. Subliminally, if we do not, or only do so partially, there is the possibility (and fear ) of loss. Loss of love, loss of acceptance, perhaps in the extreme a conclusion that you did not get what you wanted and prayed for because you did not believe hard enough or even worse that you may lose life after death. Of course, there are psychological manipulations like penance and prayer for forgiveness, but all of this blind faith is based upon loss aversion for the believer.
The brain responds quickly to purely symbolic threats. The brain and the subconscious quickly attend and focus on emotionally charged words. Negative loaded or bad words attract attention faster than do happy words. We know this from brain mapping over the last twenty years by neuroscience. There is no real threat, but there is the reminder of loss and non-acceptance. Loaded words, and there are many used by evangelists in sermons, immediately create loss vision and cause the believer to avoid or approach, recoil or lean forward in their psyche. Statistically proven, the negative always trumps the positive in many ways, and loss aversion is one of many manifestations of a broad negativity dominance. Bad information is processed more thoroughly than good. The self is more motivated to avoid bad self-definition than to pursue good ones. There is a feeling of helplessness. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than in good ones.
The typical format of a protestant fundamentalist sermon is to deliver a beginning and core message of the sins of the world and the individual and at what cost in the wrath of god. The price, the loss, is the belief in the end of time and the penalties to the non-believer. We are driven psychologically more strongly to avoid loss than to achieve gains. However, in the later part of the sermon, the preacher tells us that there is a way to avoid all the loss that we may have caused our self and that of others in the world who are driving the world towards destruction and perceived end times events. That there is a supernatural being that controls all, and he loves you, and if you will follow his rules you will be saved. The preacher creates a period of pleasure, and it is so welcomed after hearing the cost of sin and disbelief. This intense pleasure and relief functions as pleasure normally does which is to indicate the direction of a biologically significant improvement of circumstances. The pleasant relief will not last very long, and the believer will soon be driven by renewed suffering to seek forgiveness or to seek the next thing on their want list through prayer and hope they are good enough to get it.
We all have loss aversion in our psyche, and it plays a major stimulant in every aspect of our daily life decision making. However, when it comes to religion, it is Christianity and Islam that have been the leaders in using it most successfully for proslytising.