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Psychological Consequences of Religious Symbols in Public Spa Crucifix Display at a Public University

Psychological Consequences of Religious Symbols in Public Spa Crucifix Display at a Public University

The question of the presence of religious symbols (e.g. crosses) in public space is an important topic in public discourse, leading to many political disagreements and legal disputes. What seems to be missing in the debate about crosses in public space (schools, universities, hospitals) is an assessment of the psychological consequences that these symbols might have for religious and non-religious people visiting, studying and working in such places. The present experimental study examined the influence of religious displays in a public university room on the psychological state of students: their self-esteem, as well as positive and negative affect. The study found that the religious symbol reduced negative affect among students who identify strongly with religion and those who frequently attend religious ceremonies. The negative effects on non-religious students were less pronounced. This result is discussed with reference to self-affirmation theory, environmental psychological theories and more recent findings on the social consequences of more subtle religious exposures. Study examined the influence of religious symbolism in public space on psychological well-being. Crucifix display reduces negative affect among students strongly identifying with religion. Crucifix display reduces negative affect among students frequently attending church. Increase of negative affect among non-religious students was less pronounced. Religious symbols such as crucifix are instrumental in human everyday symbolic life and affect well-being.

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