People who don’t think carefully are more likely to believe in a god

I came across this interesting report of a study that says that people who ‘go by their gut’ when solving a problem are more likely to believe in god than people who reason their way to a conclusion.

They correlated religious belief with the way people approached simple problems like: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” People who go with their gut tend to say (erroneously) that it costs 10 cents while those who think it through arrive at the correct answer. The former type was more likely to believe in god than the latter.

One could conclude that this suggests that belief in god depends on people not thinking things through, which is not really surprising. But the authors of the study downplayed this aspect and instead went out of their way to make the results palatable to religious believers, calling the gut-thinkers ‘intuitive’ and saying that intuition and reflection are equally important.

Intuition is undoubtedly important. But it is not the same thing as not thinking things through.


  1. says

    We’ve been discussing this topic in the past few days, and had some pretty good discussion about other intuitive illusions, such as the Birthday problem and the Monty Hall problem (my username has the URL, if anyone’s interested).

    I don’t really find this study surprising, but it’s good that they are starting to study this stuff anyway. Hopefully, eventually, we’ll get some scientific insight into the concrete mechanisms of religious belief and indoctrination.

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