Monday, April 30, 2012

Analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief.

From Gervais and Norenzayan's introduction to their paper:
According to dual-process theories of human thinking, there are two distinct but interacting systems for information processing. One (System 1) relies upon frugal heuristics yielding intuitive responses, while the other (System 2) relies upon deliberative analytic processing. Although both systems can at times run in parallel, System 2 often overrides the input of system 1 when analytic tendencies are activated and cognitive resources are available. Dual-process theories have been successfully applied to diverse domains and phenomena across a wide range of fields
If religious belief emerges through a converging set of intuitive processes, and analytic processing can inhibit or override intuitive processing, then analytic thinking may undermine intuitive support for religious belief. Thus, a dual-process account predicts that analytic thinking may be one source of religious disbelief. Recent evidence is consistent with this hypothesis.
We adopted three complementary strategies to test for robustness and generality. First, study 1 tested whether individual differences in the tendency to engage analytic thinking are associated with reduced religious belief. Second, studies 2 to 5 established causation by testing whether various experimental manipulations of analytic processing, induced subtly and implicitly, encourage religious disbelief. These manipulations of analytic processing included visual priming, implicit priming, and cognitive disfluency. Third, across studies, we assessed religious belief using diverse measures that focused primarily on belief in and commitment to religiously endorsed supernatural agents. Samples consisted of participants from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds
From their abstract:
...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.

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