The Science of Sin: The Psychology of Seven Deadlies (and Why They Are So Good for You)

by Simon M. Laham, PhD
(Three Rivers Press, 2012)

Since early Christian times, the seven deadly sins have been decried as primary impediments to a morally pure way of life. Experimental social psychologist Simon M. Laham presents us with a fascinating history of the seven deadlies and sets out to argue against what he sees as an archaic and omnipresent code of beliefs, attempting to unseat the dogma that “sinning” is a clear-cut offense that only serves negative purposes within society today.
Before readers suddenly decide to shun conventional society in lieu of emotionally-based anarchism, Laham notes that he does not condone a life based entirely on sin. Rather, he argues using prime examples of modern psychological research that the seven deadlies are actually “functional and adaptive psychological states” that serve to benefit us and those around us—when applied sensibly. For example, when the perennial favorite state of “lust” is induced, alterations to our cognitive patterns occur, unconsciously improving a type of analytical thinking present and required within many standardized tests today. Other themes that can be positively affected by lust include altruism, relationship woes, and even creativity.

From there, Laham continues his romp through the other seemingly contradictory qualities of the deadlies: Gluttony could make you smarter. Greed could help your happiness. Sloth seems to help ideation. Anger can actually benefit negotiations. Envy helps with happiness and pride. And while pride tops the bunch as the worst sin of all, it may actually help you into a position at the head of the class (in a beloved and not reviled manner). He reminds us that while the deadlies certainly have their drawbacks, “…far from leading us down the fiery path to hell, or even being generally dysfunctional, the seven deadly sins actually serve us quite well.”

1 Comment

  1. All throughout human history, it is mightily evident that these 7 since have been reason for man’s degradation of conduct and its profound debilitation on the entire creation. The positive narrative of these sins are so mightily insignificant that we would want them to be engraved on our hearts as we would want to do for eternal character traits as virtues.

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