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As disasters and tragedies stir up controversy about the relevance of “thoughts and prayers,” a University of Wyoming economist and then-UW sociologist joined forces to investigate the material value such sentiments may actually have for their intended recipients.

Linda Thunström, assistant professor of economics at UW and the study’s lead researcher, and Shiri Noy, now employed by Denison University in Ohio as an assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, said they were drawn to the idea for a serious study of “thoughts and prayers” by the conflict that has begun to accompany them.

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Unfortunately this is collateral damage from social media. Phrases such as those are thrown around, often anonymously, without any thought on meaning or sincerity. Before social media, only close friends or family would know of hardship or loss. The response would be "I'm so sorry. You know how to find me if you need anything." Now with social media, you don't have to engage the person at a one-on-one level and are immune to any emotional "baggage". It's safe to message a couple of words and assume everything is fine now.


We want to help or do something. So do it. Many studies have already shown that nothing fails like prayer. Ingersoll said, “Hands that help are better far, than lips that pray.”


But when we look at other research which considers such themes, we find other types of information. Perhaps it is time for additional reports which collate more aspects such of intentions; being too far away or otherwise unable to be a hands-on helper; and the fact that in some places and with some people, there is no monetary charge for prayer.

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