Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief

247762029_AF8vC-1.jpegAnalytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief

Will M. Gervais, Ara Norenzayan

Science 27 April 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6080 pp. 493-496 doi: 10.1126/science.1215647


Scientific interest in the cognitive underpinnings of religious belief has grown in recent years. However, to date, little experimental research has focused on the cognitive processes that may promote religious disbelief. The present studies apply a dual-process model of cognitive processing to this problem, testing the hypothesis that analytic processing promotes religious disbelief. Individual differences in the tendency to analytically override initially flawed intuitions in reasoning were associated with increased religious disbelief. Four additional experiments provided evidence of causation, as subtle manipulations known to trigger analytic processing also encouraged religious disbelief. Combined, these studies indicate that analytic processing is one factor (presumably among several) that promotes religious disbelief. Although these findings do not speak directly to conversations about the inherent rationality, value, or truth of religious beliefs, they illuminate one cognitive factor that may influence such discussions.

Photo of the cycladic thinker by Simon Tong CC-by-nc-sa

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