Smartphones and Spirituality

Using smartphone check-ins twice a day for two weeks, sociologists in a national study have found a link between individuals’ daily spiritual experiences and overall well-being, say researchers from Baylor University and Harvard University.

While other studies have found such a connection between spirituality and positive emotions, the new study is significant because frequent texting made it easier to capture respondents’ moment-to-moment spiritual experiences over 14 days rather than only one or two points in time, they say.

“This study is unique because it examines daily spiritual experiences — such as feeling God’s presence, finding strength in religion or spirituality, and feeling inner peace and harmony — as both stable traits and as states that fluctuate,” said study co-author Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D., research professor of sociology at Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR).

“Because surveys usually capture only one or two points in time, researchers often have to assume that associations between spirituality and positive emotions capture stable traits in respondents rather than momentary states of mind,” he said. “But these findings suggest that stable, consistent spiritual experiences as well as short-term periodic ones both serve as resources to promote human flourishing and help individuals cope with stressful conditions.”

Additionally, “the prevalence of smartphones makes this sort of ‘experience sampling’ study doable on a much larger scale than in the past when pagers or palm pilots were used to trigger data collection,” said lead author Blake Victor Kent, Ph.D., Research Fellow of Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital and a non-resident scholar at Baylor ISR.

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