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Not Newsworthy: CNN Highlights Study on Survivors of Natural Disasters Who Don’t Want ‘Thoughts and Prayers’

Gabriella Hoffman
by Gabriella Hoffman Read Profile arrow_right_alt

The news outlet reported that offering “thoughts and prayers” to those affected by natural disasters isn’t helpful.

They cited a new  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences survey of North Carolina residents who endured Hurricane Florence in 2018.

One of the study’s co-authors said this:

“The idea came from the mere observation of how frequently these gestures are used … and yet how controversial they seem to be, as shown by the heated debate in the US about the value of thoughts and prayers in the wake of disasters,” said Linda Thunstr√∂m, an economist at the University of Wyoming who co-authored the study. “As a result, we wanted to find out how people actually value these frequently used gestures.”

Apparently, the researchers attached monetary value to see the value of “thoughts of prayers.” Huh. Their findings were as follows:

Since there is no monetary value attached to thoughts or prayers, the researchers assessed their value by looking at their willingness to pay (WTP), which measures the monetary value of the perceived costs and benefits. The researchers developed an experiment to elicit the WTP from religious and nonreligious participants for thoughts and prayers.

The subjects were paid a fee to compensate them for their time and an additional $5 to be used in the experiment. They were then asked how much money they were willing to give in exchange for prayers from a priest or Christian stranger, or thoughts from both nonreligious and religious strangers.

The Christians in the experiment valued a prayer from a Christian stranger, on average, at $4.36. A prayer from a priest was even higher with an average of $7.17. It should be noted that some Christians negatively valued thoughts from nonreligious strangers.Atheists and agnostics, however, took things in a completely different direction.

Nonreligious people were willing to pay about $1.66 to avoid a prayer from a priest and more than double that price at $3.54 to avoid one from a Christian stranger.

Assigning a monetary value to how people offer “thoughts and prayers”? Lovely.

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