Deliberate analytical thinking can cause people to believe less in God, according to a new study.
The researchers, who found that religious belief arises from gut feelings, were quick to say their study was not a referendum on the value of religion. Both analytical thinking and the intuitive processing that seems to promote religious beliefs are important, said study researcher Will Gervais.
"Both are useful tools," said Gervais, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of British Columbia. "Ultimately, these studies are looking at cognitive factors that might influence belief or disbelief, but they don't have anything to say about the inherent rationality or worth of religion."
Head versus heart
Psychologists have found that people process information through two distinct systems. One is the analytical system, marked by deliberate, logical processing. The intuitive system, on the other hand, uses mental shortcuts and gut feelings, Gervais said.
Earlier studies have shown that people who tend to go with their gut are more likely to believe in God than analytical types are. Gervais and his UBC colleague Ara Norenzayan reached the same finding by giving people a test to determine whether they were more analytical or more intuitive. For example, one question asked, "If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?"
The intuitive, go-with-your-gut answer would be "100." But the analytical, do-the-math process gets you the correct answer of five minutes. People who came to the analytical answer also reported less religious belief than those who offered the intuitive response.
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