Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
01-05-2012, 10:33 AM
Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God

Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises

By Daisy Grewal | May 1, 2012

Why are some people more religious than others? Answers to this question often focus on the role of culture or upbringing. While these influences are important, new research suggests that whether we believe may also have to do with how much we rely on intuition versus analytical thinking. In 2011 Amitai Shenhav, David Rand and Joshua Greene of Harvard University published a paper showing that people who have a tendency to rely on their intuition are more likely to believe in God. They also showed that encouraging people to think intuitively increased people’s belief in God. Building on these findings, in a recent paper published in Science, Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia found that encouraging people to think analytically reduced their tendency to believe in God. Together these findings suggest that belief may at least partly stem from our thinking styles.

Gervais and Norenzayan’s research is based on the idea that we possess two different ways of thinking that are distinct yet related. Understanding these two ways, which are often referred to as System 1 and System 2, may be important for understanding our tendency towards having religious faith. System 1 thinking relies on shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort. Solving logical and analytical problems may require that we override our System 1 thinking processes in order to engage System 2. Psychologists have developed a number of clever techniques that encourage us to do this. Using some of these techniques, Gervais and Norenzayan examined whether engaging System 2 leads people away from believing in God and religion.

For example, they had participants view images of artwork that are associated with reflective thinking (Rodin’s The Thinker) or more neutral images (Discobulus of Myron). Participants who viewed The Thinker reported weaker religious beliefs on a subsequent survey. However, Gervais and Norenzayan wondered if showing people artwork might have made the connection between thinking and religion too obvious. In their next two studies, they created a task that more subtly primed analytic thinking. Participants received sets of five randomly arranged words (e.g. “high winds the flies plane”) and were asked to drop one word and rearrange the others in order to create a more meaningful sentence (e.g. “the plane flies high”). Some of their participants were given scrambled sentences containing words associated with analytic thinking (e.g. “analyze,” “reason”) and other participants were given sentences that featured neutral words (e.g. “hammer,” “shoes”). After unscrambling the sentences, participants filled out a survey about their religious beliefs. In both studies, this subtle reminder of analytic thinking caused participants to express less belief in God and religion. The researchers found no relationship between participants’ prior religious beliefs and their performance in the study. Analytic thinking reduced religious belief regardless of how religious people were to begin with.

In a final study, Gervais and Norenzayan used an even more subtle way of activating analytic thinking: by having participants fill out a survey measuring their religious beliefs that was printed in either clear font or font that was difficult to read. Prior research has shown that difficult-to-read font promotes analytic thinking by forcing participants to slow down and think more carefully about the meaning of what they are reading. The researchers found that participants who filled out a survey that was printed in unclear font expressed less belief as compared to those who filled out the same survey in the clear font.

These studies demonstrate yet another way in which our thinking tendencies, many of which may be innate, have contributed to religious faith. It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort , the majority of us tend to rely on our System 1 thinking processes when possible. Evidence suggests that the majority of us are more prone to believing than being skeptical. According to a 2005 poll by Gallup, 3 out of every 4 Americans hold at least one belief in the paranormal. The most popular of these beliefs are extrasensory perception (ESP), haunted houses, and ghosts. In addition, the results help explain why some of us are more prone to believe that others. Previous research has found that people differ in their tendency to see intentions and causes in the world. These differences in thinking styles could help explain why some of us are more likely to become believers.

Why and how might analytic thinking reduce religious belief? Although more research is needed to answer this question, Gervais and Norenzayan speculate on a few possibilities. For example, analytic thinking may inhibit our natural intuition to believe in supernatural agents that influence the world. Alternatively, analytic thinking may simply cause us to override our intuition to believe and pay less attention to it. It’s important to note that across studies, participants ranged widely in their religious affiliation, gender, and race. None of these variables were found to significantly relate to people’s behavior in the studies.

Gervais and Norenzayan point out that analytic thinking is just one reason out of many why people may or may not hold religious beliefs. In addition, these findings do not say anything about the inherent value or truth of religious beliefs—they simply speak to the psychology of when and why we are prone to believe. Most importantly, they provide evidence that rather than being static, our beliefs can change drastically from situation to situation, without us knowing exactly why.


From http://www.scientificamerican.com/articl...-faith-god

[Image: 0832984001338019225.gif]
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Quidsane's post
01-05-2012, 12:54 PM
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
(01-05-2012 10:33 AM)Quidsane Wrote:  How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God

Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises

By Daisy Grewal | May 1, 2012

Why are some people more religious than others? Answers to this question often focus on the role of culture or upbringing. While these influences are important, new research suggests that whether we believe may also have to do with how much we rely on intuition versus analytical thinking. In 2011 Amitai Shenhav, David Rand and Joshua Greene of Harvard University published a paper showing that people who have a tendency to rely on their intuition are more likely to believe in God. They also showed that encouraging people to think intuitively increased people’s belief in God. Building on these findings, in a recent paper published in Science, Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia found that encouraging people to think analytically reduced their tendency to believe in God. Together these findings suggest that belief may at least partly stem from our thinking styles.

Gervais and Norenzayan’s research is based on the idea that we possess two different ways of thinking that are distinct yet related. Understanding these two ways, which are often referred to as System 1 and System 2, may be important for understanding our tendency towards having religious faith. System 1 thinking relies on shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort. Solving logical and analytical problems may require that we override our System 1 thinking processes in order to engage System 2. Psychologists have developed a number of clever techniques that encourage us to do this. Using some of these techniques, Gervais and Norenzayan examined whether engaging System 2 leads people away from believing in God and religion.

For example, they had participants view images of artwork that are associated with reflective thinking (Rodin’s The Thinker) or more neutral images (Discobulus of Myron). Participants who viewed The Thinker reported weaker religious beliefs on a subsequent survey. However, Gervais and Norenzayan wondered if showing people artwork might have made the connection between thinking and religion too obvious. In their next two studies, they created a task that more subtly primed analytic thinking. Participants received sets of five randomly arranged words (e.g. “high winds the flies plane”) and were asked to drop one word and rearrange the others in order to create a more meaningful sentence (e.g. “the plane flies high”). Some of their participants were given scrambled sentences containing words associated with analytic thinking (e.g. “analyze,” “reason”) and other participants were given sentences that featured neutral words (e.g. “hammer,” “shoes”). After unscrambling the sentences, participants filled out a survey about their religious beliefs. In both studies, this subtle reminder of analytic thinking caused participants to express less belief in God and religion. The researchers found no relationship between participants’ prior religious beliefs and their performance in the study. Analytic thinking reduced religious belief regardless of how religious people were to begin with.

In a final study, Gervais and Norenzayan used an even more subtle way of activating analytic thinking: by having participants fill out a survey measuring their religious beliefs that was printed in either clear font or font that was difficult to read. Prior research has shown that difficult-to-read font promotes analytic thinking by forcing participants to slow down and think more carefully about the meaning of what they are reading. The researchers found that participants who filled out a survey that was printed in unclear font expressed less belief as compared to those who filled out the same survey in the clear font.

These studies demonstrate yet another way in which our thinking tendencies, many of which may be innate, have contributed to religious faith. It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort , the majority of us tend to rely on our System 1 thinking processes when possible. Evidence suggests that the majority of us are more prone to believing than being skeptical. According to a 2005 poll by Gallup, 3 out of every 4 Americans hold at least one belief in the paranormal. The most popular of these beliefs are extrasensory perception (ESP), haunted houses, and ghosts. In addition, the results help explain why some of us are more prone to believe that others. Previous research has found that people differ in their tendency to see intentions and causes in the world. These differences in thinking styles could help explain why some of us are more likely to become believers.

Why and how might analytic thinking reduce religious belief? Although more research is needed to answer this question, Gervais and Norenzayan speculate on a few possibilities. For example, analytic thinking may inhibit our natural intuition to believe in supernatural agents that influence the world. Alternatively, analytic thinking may simply cause us to override our intuition to believe and pay less attention to it. It’s important to note that across studies, participants ranged widely in their religious affiliation, gender, and race. None of these variables were found to significantly relate to people’s behavior in the studies.

Gervais and Norenzayan point out that analytic thinking is just one reason out of many why people may or may not hold religious beliefs. In addition, these findings do not say anything about the inherent value or truth of religious beliefs—they simply speak to the psychology of when and why we are prone to believe. Most importantly, they provide evidence that rather than being static, our beliefs can change drastically from situation to situation, without us knowing exactly why.


From http://www.scientificamerican.com/articl...-faith-god
Yep, that was making the rounds last week. Fascinating study.

P.S. I like your signature. Funny stuff!

Join the Logic Speaks Community

I am the unconverted
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
01-05-2012, 01:48 PM
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
(01-05-2012 12:54 PM)lightninlives Wrote:  Yep, that was making the rounds last week. Fascinating study.

P.S. I like your signature. Funny stuff!


Really? I guess I missed that.
I didn't search because the article is from today (May 1).
Oh, well.

[Image: 0832984001338019225.gif]
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
01-05-2012, 02:34 PM
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
Yeah, I caught wind of it over at Discovery.com (via their mobile app which is pretty nice) last week:
http://news.discovery.com/human/religiou...20426.html

Join the Logic Speaks Community

I am the unconverted
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
01-05-2012, 03:15 PM (This post was last modified: 01-05-2012 03:18 PM by Thomas.)
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
If you have to disregard reason to believe something, thinking with reason should have the opposite effect, not believing.

It's kind of like saying, "If you just think about it, there's no god".

The old gods are dead, let's invent some new ones before something really bad happens.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
01-05-2012, 03:28 PM
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
Quote: It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to
believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort
Does it? How? I can't really see how thinking logically could require so much more effort that it would lead over 90% (or whatever the stats are) of Americans to believe in god.

The Paradox Of Fools And Wise Men:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
01-05-2012, 08:59 PM
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
Well, duh.

This is why I always suggest to the faithful that they learn about the scientific method.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
[Image: flagstiny%206.gif]
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
01-05-2012, 09:43 PM
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
(01-05-2012 03:28 PM)TrulyX Wrote:  
Quote: It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to
believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort
Does it? How? I can't really see how thinking logically could require so much more effort that it would lead over 90% (or whatever the stats are) of Americans to believe in god.
You may have a point there in that there are likely other factors that contribute to theism (namely, childhood indoctrination and peer/community pressure).

This study isn't about why people are/stay theistic. It's about how critical thinking appears to be correlated with losing religion.

Join the Logic Speaks Community

I am the unconverted
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
02-05-2012, 09:51 AM
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
(01-05-2012 03:28 PM)TrulyX Wrote:  
Quote: It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to
believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort
Does it? How? I can't really see how thinking logically could require so much more effort that it would lead over 90% (or whatever the stats are) of Americans to believe in god.

Um, yeah. You have that backwards.
Let's try the whole quote:

"These studies demonstrate yet another way in which our thinking tendencies, many of which may be innate, have contributed to religious faith. It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort, the majority of us tend to rely on our System 1 thinking processes when possible."

So, System 2 (analytical thinking), which requires more effort, tends to lead one away from god. Thumbsup
System 1 (intuition, short-cuts) may explain why the majority of Americans believe in god.

[Image: 0832984001338019225.gif]
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
02-05-2012, 01:10 PM (This post was last modified: 02-05-2012 01:16 PM by TrulyX.)
RE: Scientific American: Religious belief drops when analytical thinking rises
(02-05-2012 09:51 AM)Quidsane Wrote:  
(01-05-2012 03:28 PM)TrulyX Wrote:  Does it? How? I can't really see how thinking logically could require so much more effort that it would lead over 90% (or whatever the stats are) of Americans to believe in god.

Um, yeah. You have that backwards.
Let's try the whole quote:

"These studies demonstrate yet another way in which our thinking tendencies, many of which may be innate, have contributed to religious faith. It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort, the majority of us tend to rely on our System 1 thinking processes when possible."

So, System 2 (analytical thinking), which requires more effort, tends to lead one away from god. Thumbsup
System 1 (intuition, short-cuts) may explain why the majority of Americans believe in god.
The whole quote really doesn't change anything. I only quoted that specific portion, because I was addressing what they were saying about Americans.

It seems as if they were trying to imply that American's laziness contributed to such a high number of religious believers. They did only mention America, not worldwide statistics.

Also, they used the word effort like somehow it was substantially harder to think analytically.

The point I was trying to make was that I doubt the amount of effort it takes to think analytically could be substantial enough to account for such a large number of Americans having a belief in god. I'm just disagreeing that it helps explain the statistic, given that I feel it has to be only a miniscule part of the equation. It might help explain maybe a statistic of 60%, and even that seems like a stretch, but over 90% isn't just a majority, it's an overwhelming majority. That big of a majority needs way more to help explain than it takes effort to use System 2 and most use System 1.

And that doesn't mean you have to go and throw away your "I believe in God, because thinking is too hard" t-shirt either.

The Paradox Of Fools And Wise Men:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” ― Bertrand Russell
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: