Personality of Glossolalia - Research Proposal

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  • Topic: Temporal lobe, Extraversion and introversion, Cerebrum
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  • Published : September 29, 2011
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The Personality of Glossolalia.
left and right brain activation.

Andrew McBain

Research Proposal
Psychology of Religion
Tutorial: 9am Friday
I have decided to propose research into the relatively new area of neurotheology. I propose research be conducted into the activation of the temporal lobes of the brain during the production of glossolalia and gibberish, particularly considering Broca’s area which contributes to comprehensible speech production is located in the left hemisphere, and that Glossolalia correlates with increased activity in the right hemisphere.

Neurotheology (sometimes referred to as biotheology) is the study of spirituality on a biological and neurological level; it is a fairly new concept, which has only been around since the 1980’s, despite being coined by author Aldous Huxley in his novel The Island (1962). Biotheological studies provide exciting opportunities to obtain strong empirical data on religious experiences; experiences which self-report surveys cannot provide. Much of the research has relied on modern technology and non-evasive methods of brain imaging.

My interest in this research is strengthened by similar studies, particularly those of Phillipchalk.R (2000) and Francis.L.J & Robbins.M (2003). Similar studies have shared common results, though they all state that important other variables still remain untested. More specifically, whilst I am not ‘gifted’ with speaking in tongues, I have a keen interest in understanding the production and practice of glossolalia and the benefits of partaking in it. I propose a study to investigate the untested variables in the abovementioned studies and investigate their relation to existing data.

This research would contribute to our understanding of glossolalia, so as to assist in our comprehension of its function in the lives of spiritual people. A better understanding of religious issues in psychology helps us to be more sensitive to potential clients. Introduction

So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 1 Corinthians14: 23

Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is an aspect of spiritual behaviour, which involves utterances in an “unknown mystical language” (Wikipedia 2006). The Book of Acts, Chapter 2, recounts how on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles, giving them the ability to speak in tongues and be understood in a multitude of languages. On that day alone, the church welcomed many thousands of people. The gift is regarded as a bonding force within religious communities and also as spiritual proof of the divine world.

Speaking in tongues is just one of many gifts that God can bestow on his people. In some cases it is a gift, which must be courageously asked for, characterising true belief and a desire to express what words cannot. In other cases it has seen as a way for God to communicate with his followers. To an outsider, it sounds like gibberish, but to someone who is gifted, it is a deeply emotional and spiritual form of communication.

Phillipchalk.R (2000) demonstrated that the practice of speaking in tongues “increased the temperature associated with the right hemisphere [of the brain], relative to the left.” However, this presents a paradox; the centres largely responsible for production of coherent speech are (for most people) present in the left temporal lobe.

The temporal lobe of the brain and parts of the inferior parietal lobe contain structures integral to language, vision and emotion. Broca’s area is a portion of the thalamus in the left hemisphere of the brain, which we know that when damaged, minor speech and comprehension impairment results. However, because it is also widely accepted that the right hemisphere plays a major role in mystical states such as...
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