Analytic Thinking Can Decrease Religious Belief
A new University of British Columbia study finds that analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, even in devout believers. The study, published in the journal Science, finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief among believers and skeptics alike, shedding important new light on the psychology of religious belief.
“Our goal was to explore the fundamental question of why people believe in a God to different degrees,” said lead author Will Gervais, a psychology PhD student. “A combination of complex factors influence matters of personal spirituality, and these new findings suggest that the cognitive system related to analytic thoughts is one factor that can influence disbelief.” Researchers used problem-solving tasks and subtle experimental priming 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.