Analytical thought found to affect beliefs
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:07
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have recently discovered that analytical thought changes perception of religion. Psychologists place thinking in two categories: intuitive thinking and analytical thinking. Those who tend to think intuitively tend to report a stronger belief in religion.
Intuitive thinking is fundamental in all human beings, it is the thought humans incur immediately. For example, when someone shows emotions of sadness, or happiness, intuitive thought analyses these emotions. Analytical thought, on the other hand, is more in-depth and takes longer, and includes thoughts such as mathematic analysis.
A psychology study at Harvard University of people who resolved to intuitive thinking generally reported stronger religious beliefs.
Will Gervais, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, raised the hypothesis that if intuitive thinking leads to stronger religious belief, then analytical thinking leads to disbelief.
“Recently there’s been an emerging consensus among [researchers] … that a lot of religious beliefs are grounded in intuitive processes,” said Gervais.
With his advisor, Ara Norenzayan, he tested the hypothesis by taking a control group of 93 undergraduates and 148 adults, and having them complete word puzzles. One group had word puzzles that included words such as “analyze,” “reason,” and “ponder,” while the other group had words unrelated to thinking such as “high” and “plane.”
Their hypothesis was reinforced when the results showed that people who were given the “analytical” word puzzle showed a weaker belief in religion when taking a questionnaire after the word puzzle. People, who were given the other, less thought-related word puzzle, reported a stronger belief in religion.
Garvais also used a questionnaire with hard-to-read font, a method implemented to trigger analytical thought in the participant, and found that the volunteers who took the hard-to-read questionnaire were less devout to religious thought compared to those who had the normally constructed questionnaire.
Nicholas Epley, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, believes that these findings won’t alter anyone’s perception of their religion. “If you think that reasoning analytically is the way to go about understanding the world accurately, you might see this as evidence that being religious doesn’t make much sense,” he says. “If you’re a religious person, I think you take this evidence as showing that God has given you a system for belief that just reveals itself to you as common sense.”
Modern society favorS and reward those with analytical skills. Most look for these skills because they form the fundamentals of good decision-making, showcase managerial ability, and help balance subjectivity with objectivity.
The progression of science and technology has in fact lead to a decline in religious belief. As Alexandra Moseley writes in her paper, The Decline of Religion in Modernity and Beyond, the advancement of technology, more specifically the media, has altered the youth’s priorities, away from religion as was in the past, to a more celebrity and fame focused agenda.
“Advancing technology does limit the influence of the gods and sets alongside religious belief a new and greater confidence in human potentialities,” Moseley writes. “The irony of it is that as this confidence in human powers, science and brotherhood grows, it will eventually become a religion of its own.”