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Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, research shows

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  • medit8ionsociety
    A new University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers. The study, published today in
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 29, 2012
      A new University of British Columbia study finds
      that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief,
      even in devout believers.

      The study, published today in the journal Science,
      finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief
      among believers and skeptics alike, shedding important
      new light on the psychology of religious belief.

      "Our goal was to explore the fundamental question of
      why people believe in a God to different degrees,"
      says lead author Will Gervais, a PhD student in UBC's
      Dept. of Psychology. "A combination of complex factors
      influence matters of personal spirituality, and these
      new findings suggest that the cognitive system related
      to analytic thoughts is one factor that can influence disbelief."

      Researchers used problem-solving tasks and subtle
      experimental priming – including showing participants
      Rodin's sculpture The Thinker or asking participants
      to complete questionnaires in hard-to-read fonts – to
      successfully produce "analytic" thinking. The researchers,
      who assessed participants' belief levels using a variety
      of self-reported measures, found that religious belief
      decreased when participants engaged in analytic tasks,
      compared to participants who engaged in tasks that did not
      involve analytic thinking.

      The findings, Gervais says, are based on a longstanding
      human psychology model of two distinct, but related cognitive
      systems to process information: an "intuitive" system that
      relies on mental shortcuts to yield fast and efficient
      responses, and a more "analytic" system that yields more
      deliberate, reasoned responses.

      "Our study builds on previous research that links religious
      beliefs to 'intuitive' thinking," says study co-author and
      Associate Prof. Ara Norenzayan, UBC Dept. of Psychology.
      "Our findings suggest that activating the 'analytic' cognitive
      system in the brain can undermine the 'intuitive' support
      for religious belief, at least temporarily."

      The study involved more than 650 participants in the U.S.
      and Canada. Gervais says future studies will explore whether
      the increase in religious disbelief is temporary or long-lasting,
      and how the findings apply to non-Western cultures.

      Recent figures suggest that the majority of the world's
      population believes in a God, however atheists and agnostics
      number in the hundreds of millions, says Norenzayan, a
      co-director of UBC's Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition
      and Culture. Religious convictions are shaped by psychological
      and cultural factors and fluctuate across time and situations,
      he says.

      Provided by University of British Columbia

      From: http://medicalxpress.com
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