Why do we pray the way we do? How does it resemble other contemplative activities in our lives? And how is our spirituality influenced by our bodies and physical surroundings? As we learn more about how the body reacts to spirituality, we are also confirming age-old intuitions about the relationship between the brain and the body, and religion gives us a map for exploring this new knowledge.

Dr. Kevin Ladd is a social psychologist and Associate Professor at Indiana University. He conducts most of his research in the area of the psychology of religion. In particular, he is interested in the topic of prayer. He is co-author, with Bernard Spilka, of The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach.

He is currently working on a three year project funded by the John Templeton Foundation to explore what people tend to think about while praying, how people literally see the world in terms of spiritual importance, what people tend to feel while praying, and how people use their bodies while praying. Other research interests include the interface of science & religion, prayer, wisdom, music, ritual, health, coping, prejudice, psychometrics, physiology, neuroimaging, synesthesia, spiritual transformation, character development, personality, clergy & congregational performance/satisfaction, and magic.

(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. As part of the program, Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, NJ has been holding a series titled “The Science of Tsuris: The Polyvagal Theory and How Judaism Responds to our Biological Imperative to Connect.” This talk was adapted from a session recorded on October 27, 2021).

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