I bet we hear more about this one: a study at the University of British Columbia has found that analytical thinking actually decreases religious belief.
The study, which will appear in tomorrow’s issue of Science, finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief among believers and skeptics alike, shedding important new light on the psychology of religious belief…
Researchers used problem-solving tasks and subtle experimental priming – including showing participants Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker or asking participants to complete questionnaires in hard-to-read fonts – to successfully produce “analytic” thinking. The researchers, who assessed participants’ belief levels using a variety of self-reported measures, found that religious belief decreased when participants engaged in analytic tasks, compared to participants who engaged in tasks that did not involve analytic thinking.
I’ve long had a suspicion that superstition and other forms of faith-based thinking are vestiges of the psychology of our pre-sapiens ancestors, a kind of proto-rationality based on pattern recognition and habit acquisition. Such thinking would have the advantage of being quicker (as in “snap judgments”) and of course the disadvantage of being inaccurate and unreliable. And yet, it would still be accurate and reliable enough to be a survival advantage, which is why it still holds on today, particularly among people who have not exercised their ability use reason and analysis to uncover the truth. Or so it seems to me, anyway.