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With the US midterm elections next week, new research looks at how a sense of instability which precedes an election, can have wider implications for religious faith.

Academics have examined the impact that changing political climates can have on religious belief. They have discovered that when people are aware of instability and vulnerability in a government their faith in a higher power strengthens. Moreover, they have found that if this faith is shaken in anyway they are then more likely to place their belief in government, to give them a sense of restored order in their lives.

Authors Aaron Kay, an associate professor of management and associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the Fuqua School at Duke University and Adam Galinsky, professor of ethics and decision in management at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University says that their research has implications for the formation and strengthening of religious belief.

In a series of experiments the authors found that when individuals perceived instability in their government such as before an election, then their belief in an interventionist and controlling deity increased. Conversely after an election when they felt that political stability had been achieved, faith in a controlling deity declined.

“Although there are undoubtedly multiple causes of religious belief, one cause may be that when people perceive their government as unstable, they turn to God or other religious deities to fulfil a need for order and control in their lives,” says Prof Kay.

Further experiments revealed that when individuals were persuaded that scientists had concluded that a higher deity was unlikely to intervene in global affairs and was not in control, individuals demonstrated much higher levels of support for their government,.

Prof Kay says that in turn this might mean that “higher levels of religious belief, commitment and possibly extremism might be more likely in those countries that have the least stable governments”.

The paper, For God (or) Country: The Hydraulic Relation Between Government Instability and Belief in Religious Sources of Control will be published next month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Co-authors of the study are Stephen Shephard of the University of Waterloo, Craig Blatz of Grant MacEwan University and Sook Ning Chua of McGill University.

Further research looks at what creates a successful company. Business success does not depend purely on factors such as strategy and positioning, the emotional intelligence of your boss is also key.

After studying 40 chief executive officers from leading companies, Christophe Haag a professor of human resources at EM Lyon business school in France, says that those executives who are able to tap into a wide range of emotions and communicate them most effectively will gain the most support from their employees.

And for those bosses who perhaps are not as in touch with their inner feelings as they would wish, all is not lost. Prof Haag says that emotional intelligence can be developed and honed through relevant training. Training can be fairly straightforward he says with CEOs practising appropriate facial expressions such as enthusiasm or sympathy firstly using a mirror, but subsequently using a friend or colleague as a sounding board.

However Prof Haag warns that there are no short cuts to improving emotional intelligence. Employees for example he says would quickly be able to tell if emotions were being deployed in an insincere way.

“Expressing your emotions is key to getting your audience to engage with you, but it has to be real and not a means to an end. People are generally very quick to detect a lack of sincerity and will discredit the speaker immediately,” he adds.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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