What Does Analytic Thinking Do To Your Faith?

Is there a thinker in all of us? Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker" represents the internal struggle in everyone...

(Time) Losing Your Religion? Analytic Thinking Weakens Religious Belief

By ALEXANDRA SIFFERLIN@acsifferlinApril 27, 2012

Most of the world’s population believes in God, or gods, but alongside them there are also hundreds of millions of nonbelievers. What makes one a believer or not?

Religious faith is likely a complex phenomenon, shaped by multiple aspects of psychology and culture, say the authors of a new study. But the researchers, Ara Norenzayan and Will Gervais of the University of British Columbia in Canada, showed in a series of clever studies that at least one factor consistently appears to decrease the strength of people’s religious belief: analytic thinking.

“Religion is such a big force in the world,” says Norenzayan, an associate professor of psychology. “Hardly a day goes by without allegiances made to God, but we know very little about it. We are trying to fill this gap in our knowledge.”

(MORE: Study: Narcissism and Religion an Unethical Mix)

In one study, the researchers correlated participants’ performance on a test of analytic thinking with measures of their religious belief. The thinking task included three problems requiring participants to analytically override their initial intuition. For example, one question asked: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” The immediate, intuitive response is 10 cents. Those who take the time to figure out the right answer (5 cents) are judged to be more analytical, and these people tended to score lower on the measures of religious belief.

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Also see Richard Dawkins, The World’s Most Famous AtheistShould You Eat, Smoke or Meditate?Why Are There ‘Mass Faintings’ at Cambodian Factories?Is There Really a Relgion Called Dudeism? and What is the Brain’s ‘God spot’?

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