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Religious belief at odds with analytical thinking, says new study


Rodin's 'Thinker' used to "prime" analytical thinking in volunteers in a new study that says analytical thinking and religious belief are often at odds.


Gabriel Bouys

Religion and rationality are at odds in the human mind says a bold new study.

Canadian researchers found that thinking analytically, using reason rather than intuition, decreases religious belief.

For the study, 650 people in the US and Canada, both believers and non-believers, were tested for analytical thinking, while being surveyed for religious beliefs.

Volunteers underwent five separate tests, reported the Vancouver Sun.

An example, this brain teaser: a bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The intuitive answer is $0.10, while answer for the analytically-inclined said $0.05.

Another test used Rodin's "The Thinker" to inspire analytical thinking in volunteers.

As volunteers were made to think analytically during the various tests, their religious beliefs decreased.

“If you can get people to engage in analytic thinking, whether it’s by looking at pictures or showing them difficult-to-read text, analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief,” said PhD student at the University of British Columbia and lead author Will Gervais, according to ABC News.

“This indicates that analytic thinking is one of many factors affecting people’s religious beliefs.”

In other words, those who rely more on intuitive thinking tend to be more religious - a belief that can decrease with the injection of logical thinking.

“I suppose some people might find it surprising,” Gervais said, according to ABC News, “that really subtle experimental manipulations might be able to temporarily alter religious beliefs.”

The study was published in the journal Science.