Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds

Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds

Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

May 15th, 2012, 3:17 am #1

Hmmm, big surprise. Or is it? Maybe thinking can deepen religious faith.

Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds

Those who think more analytically are less inclined to be religious believers than are those who tend to follow a gut instinct, researchers conclude.

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

9:05 PM PDT, April 26, 2012

Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

The cognitive origins of belief and disbelief traditionally haven't been explored with academic rigor, said lead author Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

"There's been a long-standing intellectual tradition of treating science as one thing and religion as separate, and never the twain shall meet," he said. But in recent years, he added, there has been a push "to understand religion and why our species has the capacity for religion."

According to one theory of human thinking, the brain processes information using two systems. The first relies on mental shortcuts by using intuitive responses a gut instinct, if you will to quickly arrive at a conclusion. The other employs deliberative analysis, which uses reason to arrive at a conclusion.

Both systems are useful and can run in parallel, the theory goes. But when called upon, analytic thinking can override intuition.

Studies suggest that religious beliefs are rooted in this intuitive processing, Gervais said. So, he wondered, would thinking analytically undermine religious belief as it overrides intuitive thought?

To find out, his research team had college students perform three thinking tasks, each with an intuitive (incorrect) answer and an analytic (correct) answer.

For example, students were asked this question: "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 10 cents would be wrong. A little math on the fly reveals that the correct answer would be 5 cents.

After answering three of these questions, the students were asked to rate a series of statements on belief, including, "In my life I feel the presence of the Divine," and "I just don't understand religion." Students who answered the three questions correctly and presumably did a better job of engaging their analytical skills were more likely to score lower on the belief scales.

To tease out whether analytic thinking was actually causing belief to decrease, the researchers performed a series of additional experiments.

First, students were randomly assigned to look at images of Auguste Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker," or of the ancient Greek statue of a discus thrower, "Discobolus." Those who viewed "The Thinker" were prompted to think more analytically and expressed less belief in God they scored an average of 41.42 on a 100-point scale, compared with an average of 61.55 for the group that viewed the discus thrower, according to the study.

Two additional experiments used word games rather than images. In one case, participants were asked to arrange a series of words into a sentence. Some were given neutral words and others were presented with trigger words such as "think," "reason" and "analyze" to prime them to think more analytically. And indeed, those who got the "thinking" words expressed less religiosity on a 10-to-70 scale: They ranked themselves at 34.39, on average, while those in the control group averaged 40.16.

In the final experiment, students in the control group read text in a clear, legible font, while those in the other group were forced to squint at a font that was hard to read, a chore that has been shown to trigger analytic thinking. Sure enough, those who read the less legible font rated their belief in supernatural agents at 10.40 on a 3-to-21 scale, compared with 12.16 for those who read the clear font.

So does this mean that religious faith can be undermined with just a little extra mental effort? Not really, said Nicholas Epley, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study. But it does show that belief isn't set in stone, but can respond to a person's context.

"There's an illusion that our brains are more static than they actually are," he said. "We have fundamental beliefs and values that we hold, and those things seem sticky, constant. But it's easier to get movement on something fundamental."

As for whether this should alarm the layperson, Epley shrugged. "Even deeply religious people will point out they have had moments of doubt," he said.

amina.khan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
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Joined: January 13th, 2010, 2:50 pm

May 15th, 2012, 3:55 am #2


Beliefs are connected to emotions, not rational thought and reason. People like to think that their beliefs are thoughtful and well reasoned; but based on evidence and observation that they are certainly not. Could almost be by definition, even.

Seems to be the reason why beliefs are more powerful than facts. Facts, the truth, logical arguments, et. al. can't sway someone that wants to believe.

An interesting discussion would be... Is that "wanting of belief", or unconditional belief, the same as "faith". I tend to think not, but it'd be interesting to look at different perspectives, anyway.
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Tim
Tim

May 15th, 2012, 4:20 am #3

Hmmm, big surprise. Or is it? Maybe thinking can deepen religious faith.

Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds

Those who think more analytically are less inclined to be religious believers than are those who tend to follow a gut instinct, researchers conclude.

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

9:05 PM PDT, April 26, 2012

Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

The cognitive origins of belief and disbelief traditionally haven't been explored with academic rigor, said lead author Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

"There's been a long-standing intellectual tradition of treating science as one thing and religion as separate, and never the twain shall meet," he said. But in recent years, he added, there has been a push "to understand religion and why our species has the capacity for religion."

According to one theory of human thinking, the brain processes information using two systems. The first relies on mental shortcuts by using intuitive responses a gut instinct, if you will to quickly arrive at a conclusion. The other employs deliberative analysis, which uses reason to arrive at a conclusion.

Both systems are useful and can run in parallel, the theory goes. But when called upon, analytic thinking can override intuition.

Studies suggest that religious beliefs are rooted in this intuitive processing, Gervais said. So, he wondered, would thinking analytically undermine religious belief as it overrides intuitive thought?

To find out, his research team had college students perform three thinking tasks, each with an intuitive (incorrect) answer and an analytic (correct) answer.

For example, students were asked this question: "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 10 cents would be wrong. A little math on the fly reveals that the correct answer would be 5 cents.

After answering three of these questions, the students were asked to rate a series of statements on belief, including, "In my life I feel the presence of the Divine," and "I just don't understand religion." Students who answered the three questions correctly and presumably did a better job of engaging their analytical skills were more likely to score lower on the belief scales.

To tease out whether analytic thinking was actually causing belief to decrease, the researchers performed a series of additional experiments.

First, students were randomly assigned to look at images of Auguste Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker," or of the ancient Greek statue of a discus thrower, "Discobolus." Those who viewed "The Thinker" were prompted to think more analytically and expressed less belief in God they scored an average of 41.42 on a 100-point scale, compared with an average of 61.55 for the group that viewed the discus thrower, according to the study.

Two additional experiments used word games rather than images. In one case, participants were asked to arrange a series of words into a sentence. Some were given neutral words and others were presented with trigger words such as "think," "reason" and "analyze" to prime them to think more analytically. And indeed, those who got the "thinking" words expressed less religiosity on a 10-to-70 scale: They ranked themselves at 34.39, on average, while those in the control group averaged 40.16.

In the final experiment, students in the control group read text in a clear, legible font, while those in the other group were forced to squint at a font that was hard to read, a chore that has been shown to trigger analytic thinking. Sure enough, those who read the less legible font rated their belief in supernatural agents at 10.40 on a 3-to-21 scale, compared with 12.16 for those who read the clear font.

So does this mean that religious faith can be undermined with just a little extra mental effort? Not really, said Nicholas Epley, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study. But it does show that belief isn't set in stone, but can respond to a person's context.

"There's an illusion that our brains are more static than they actually are," he said. "We have fundamental beliefs and values that we hold, and those things seem sticky, constant. But it's easier to get movement on something fundamental."

As for whether this should alarm the layperson, Epley shrugged. "Even deeply religious people will point out they have had moments of doubt," he said.

amina.khan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
the study would be much more fascinating if performed on elderly or middle aged people who have experienced life. Rather then brainwashed kids who just got out of High School and where forced to go to church they're whole life.

Personally I think analytically about the Scriptures and analytically about the sciences, and analytically see how they join as one in the future and even today.

As may you know, I tend to analogize EVERYTHING, which is typical for a Libra oddly enough. I've also studies the Zodiac typical personality traits years ago.

But anyway.... The study should have been dun on seasoned people, not kids who have no life experience and really don't have a clue about anything. And that would have given true human results instead of seeing how an empty clueless brain can be manipulated. LOL

Bro Tim
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Joined: December 8th, 2003, 1:16 am

May 15th, 2012, 12:11 pm #4

Beliefs are connected to emotions, not rational thought and reason. People like to think that their beliefs are thoughtful and well reasoned; but based on evidence and observation that they are certainly not. Could almost be by definition, even.

Seems to be the reason why beliefs are more powerful than facts. Facts, the truth, logical arguments, et. al. can't sway someone that wants to believe.

An interesting discussion would be... Is that "wanting of belief", or unconditional belief, the same as "faith". I tend to think not, but it'd be interesting to look at different perspectives, anyway.
Faith isn't the same as belief.

A teenage might believe that he's going to become a doctor after he gets out of school. He might even day-dream about being a doctor (yuck) but each to his own dream ...

He'll never BECOME a doctor though ... until he tests his belief by committing himself to some real work. He'll only commit himself if he has FAITH in himself ... that he can actually succeed.

Faith always requires commitment to WORK.

You might believe that a shaky bridge is safe enough for someone to cross it. You only prove your belief by actually crossing it yourself and you only cross because you have FAITH that it will hold long enough for you to cross.

This is what Christians miss. They believe that GOD will do all the work. And so ... they never exercise real faith.

-Vince
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QUITTNER
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May 15th, 2012, 3:54 pm #5

Hmmm, big surprise. Or is it? Maybe thinking can deepen religious faith.

Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds

Those who think more analytically are less inclined to be religious believers than are those who tend to follow a gut instinct, researchers conclude.

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times

9:05 PM PDT, April 26, 2012

Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

The cognitive origins of belief and disbelief traditionally haven't been explored with academic rigor, said lead author Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

"There's been a long-standing intellectual tradition of treating science as one thing and religion as separate, and never the twain shall meet," he said. But in recent years, he added, there has been a push "to understand religion and why our species has the capacity for religion."

According to one theory of human thinking, the brain processes information using two systems. The first relies on mental shortcuts by using intuitive responses a gut instinct, if you will to quickly arrive at a conclusion. The other employs deliberative analysis, which uses reason to arrive at a conclusion.

Both systems are useful and can run in parallel, the theory goes. But when called upon, analytic thinking can override intuition.

Studies suggest that religious beliefs are rooted in this intuitive processing, Gervais said. So, he wondered, would thinking analytically undermine religious belief as it overrides intuitive thought?

To find out, his research team had college students perform three thinking tasks, each with an intuitive (incorrect) answer and an analytic (correct) answer.

For example, students were asked this question: "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 10 cents would be wrong. A little math on the fly reveals that the correct answer would be 5 cents.

After answering three of these questions, the students were asked to rate a series of statements on belief, including, "In my life I feel the presence of the Divine," and "I just don't understand religion." Students who answered the three questions correctly and presumably did a better job of engaging their analytical skills were more likely to score lower on the belief scales.

To tease out whether analytic thinking was actually causing belief to decrease, the researchers performed a series of additional experiments.

First, students were randomly assigned to look at images of Auguste Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker," or of the ancient Greek statue of a discus thrower, "Discobolus." Those who viewed "The Thinker" were prompted to think more analytically and expressed less belief in God they scored an average of 41.42 on a 100-point scale, compared with an average of 61.55 for the group that viewed the discus thrower, according to the study.

Two additional experiments used word games rather than images. In one case, participants were asked to arrange a series of words into a sentence. Some were given neutral words and others were presented with trigger words such as "think," "reason" and "analyze" to prime them to think more analytically. And indeed, those who got the "thinking" words expressed less religiosity on a 10-to-70 scale: They ranked themselves at 34.39, on average, while those in the control group averaged 40.16.

In the final experiment, students in the control group read text in a clear, legible font, while those in the other group were forced to squint at a font that was hard to read, a chore that has been shown to trigger analytic thinking. Sure enough, those who read the less legible font rated their belief in supernatural agents at 10.40 on a 3-to-21 scale, compared with 12.16 for those who read the clear font.

So does this mean that religious faith can be undermined with just a little extra mental effort? Not really, said Nicholas Epley, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago who was not involved in the study. But it does show that belief isn't set in stone, but can respond to a person's context.

"There's an illusion that our brains are more static than they actually are," he said. "We have fundamental beliefs and values that we hold, and those things seem sticky, constant. But it's easier to get movement on something fundamental."

As for whether this should alarm the layperson, Epley shrugged. "Even deeply religious people will point out they have had moments of doubt," he said.

amina.khan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
A lot depends on the content of the questions - they can be slanted to obtain preset, biased answers.
..... Many people all over this planet have, and/or have had, religious experiences apparently (often? usually?) not similar to what they were taught about religion by their local clergy. Thinking is the method with which they had and/or still have 2-way communications with God, or gods, or some other spirits.
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Joined: January 13th, 2010, 2:50 pm

May 15th, 2012, 5:34 pm #6

Faith isn't the same as belief.

A teenage might believe that he's going to become a doctor after he gets out of school. He might even day-dream about being a doctor (yuck) but each to his own dream ...

He'll never BECOME a doctor though ... until he tests his belief by committing himself to some real work. He'll only commit himself if he has FAITH in himself ... that he can actually succeed.

Faith always requires commitment to WORK.

You might believe that a shaky bridge is safe enough for someone to cross it. You only prove your belief by actually crossing it yourself and you only cross because you have FAITH that it will hold long enough for you to cross.

This is what Christians miss. They believe that GOD will do all the work. And so ... they never exercise real faith.

-Vince
I don't think that Christians have a monopoly on that "miss", though. Believers of all religions, and even atheists, exhibit the same pattern of behavior.
Last edited by ever-a-newbie on May 15th, 2012, 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Tim
Tim

May 16th, 2012, 6:53 am #7

A lot depends on the content of the questions - they can be slanted to obtain preset, biased answers.
..... Many people all over this planet have, and/or have had, religious experiences apparently (often? usually?) not similar to what they were taught about religion by their local clergy. Thinking is the method with which they had and/or still have 2-way communications with God, or gods, or some other spirits.
A lot depends on the content of the questions - they can be slanted to obtain preset, biased answers.
---------------------------------------------

And the questions were atheist oriented, or non-religious oriented.
And the participants were school kids without any life experiences.

And that's like asking a 3 year old what they think about driving cars on the freeway.

Bro Tim




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