Changing the subject, one of my colleagues sent me a link to "Born believers: How your brain creates God", which references an article about how "loss of control" changes our perception of patterns
Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas in Austin and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, asked people what patterns they could see in arrangements of dots or stock market information. Before asking, Whitson and Galinsky made half their participants feel a lack of control, either by giving them feedback unrelated to their performance or by having them recall experiences where they had lost control of a situation.We were already looking at that article to see if we could relate it to how people perceive the veracity of websites, something we've looked at before, most recently described in: "Web site credibility: Why do people believe what they believe? " published in the January 2009 issue of Instructional Science.
The results were striking. The subjects who sensed a loss of control were much more likely to see patterns where there were none. "We were surprised that the phenomenon is as widespread as it is," Whitson says.
Back to the "Born believers" article, here's a statement to ponder: "While many institutions collapsed during the Great Depression that began in 1929, one kind did rather well. During this leanest of times, the strictest, most authoritarian churches saw a surge in attendance."