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May 16, 2009

Conference Report…and Religiosity

AFCPE conf

This picture is actually from 2 conferences ago, but since this is my go-to outfit for any presentation, I was wearing the exact same thing at the Pacific Sociological Association conference in April (although I’m sorry to admit that my hair looked much worse this time around; even my mom agreed something was just not right about it!).

So I presented about my incarcerated men’s expectations after leaving jail way back on April 10, which means I’ve taken my sweet time in recapping the event.  But I’m happy to say that it was a great success!  This was, by far, the most nervous/frustrated/crazed I’ve ever been about a presentation (for proof, see here, here, and here) because I just wasn’t sure my findings were coming together at all.  Because I didn’t have anyone to really bounce ideas off of this time around, I kept thinking, “Maybe I’m using this variable all wrong! Maybe I’m interpreting this totally inappropriately!”  You get the idea…

I was particularly worried about my religiosity variable (I pray daily, My faith impacts many of my decisions, etc.).  A little background: there is a lot of contention in the corrections literature regarding the impact of faith and religion.  Some studies argue that it is absolutely essential in the rehabilitation process, while others find it irrelevant.  Because I study at BYU, I think I’m much more sensitized to how people will perceive me discussing religion than if I worked at a secular university (there is very good reason for this in the family studies field that I won’t go into at the moment).  So although my findings were clear and robust, with high religiosity being the best predictor of men’s plans to avoid risky behaviors when they reentered society, I spoke almost tentatively, not wanting to seem as if I was focusing on religiosity purely because it confirms my own religious beliefs (the dreaded confirmation bias and all).

Because of this hesitancy, I was extremely gratified by some of the comments from other researchers in the audience.  One academic specifically commented on the fact that religiosity can be a very tricky variable to use in the type of analysis I was doing, but that I handled it very well.  Even more interesting, though, was my discussant’s comments.  He basically called me on my tentativity (how would you actually say that?) and said that my findings were compelling and I should be more straightforward and confident about them.

It reminded me of something very important: despite what some may say or believe, faith does not undercut scientific inquiry.  In my own life, I have clearly seen faith give direction, enlightenment, and vitality to my academic work.  There’s nothing tentative about that.



  1. I didn’t realize you were going to a sociological conference—I still need to go to one! Sounds like you did great! And, best of all, it’s over!

    Comment by Vickie Blanchard — May 17, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

  2. Sounds very interesting, Mrs. Call.

    It makes logical sense that religiosity would be a predictor of risky behavior avoidance; after all, that’s probably a decent predictor for any person, whether in prison or not, of avoiding harmful activities. But I do understand your hesitancy and worry about confirmation bias. I think your worries demonstrate that you are a good researcher because you’re paying attention to those things.

    Good luck! Oh, do you have a report or ppt or something you can e-mail me about this so I can see what you did?

    Comment by mcp — June 2, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

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