(NEWSCIENTIST) — It’s well known that religious faith can help believers cope with stress and anxiety, by providing them with a sense of meaning and control at times of uncertainty. It now seems that a “belief” in science and a rationalistic outlook might do the same for the non-religious.

A team of psychologists led by Miguel Farias at the University of Oxford asked 52 rowers to fill in a “belief in science” questionnaire just before taking part in a competitive regatta. They gave the same test – in which participants had to score statements such as “science is the most valuable part of human culture” – to a similar number of rowers at a training session. The questionnaire also assessed self-reported stress levels and degree of religious belief.

Farias and colleagues discovered that those about to race were both more stressed, and rated their belief in science 14 per cent higher than those who were simply training.

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