Disconnect, for a moment, from the argument of whether prayer is real. That’s for another time and another place. The fact remains that it is an ancient, powerful, and widely practiced behavior. What is it about the human brain that encourages so many to appeal to a higher power? And what is happening inside the brain when people pray?
When we look at prayer through the lens of neuroscience, we can make an interesting observation: Talking to God is not really different from talking to one’s friends and neighbors.
The brain’s evolution was a highly social process and involved complex problem solving. Yet, invisible entities are not a force of natural selection. Check out this fMRI study of religious folks, and you’ll see that religious people’s brains view prayer as communication with an actual physical entity.
Believer or not, it’s good conversation fodder for your next cocktail party. For sure, it appears that religion is far more than illusion for the religious.