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Good Housekeeping
Jennifer Chan, Assistant Managing Editor
May 03, 2012

Analytic Thinking May Reduce Religious Beliefs, Study Shows

Research shows that your faith may take a hit when you're prompted to think analytically. By Jennifer Chan

How strong is your faith? According to a study published in the journal Science, it may not be as strong as you think it is--at least, not if you pit it against your own logical mind. Apparently, people’s religious convictions fall a notch lower when they’re prompted to think more analytically about their religious beliefs. Skeptics become even more skeptical too as a result. 

Studying more than 650 participants in the US and Canada, lead author Will Gervais and his fellow researchers from the University of British Columbia used problem-solving tasks alongside subtle priming to get everyone in an analytic mode. Afterward, researchers who reviewed participants’ own reports of their beliefs found that those who engaged in analytic tasks had had their religious convictions reduced. 

According to Gervais, the results are based on two cognitive systems used to process information: intuitive and analytic. The former is more immediate and depends on mental shortcuts to produce quick answers. The latter, on the other hand, is more deliberate and requires more rational thought. "Our findings suggest that activating the 'analytic' cognitive system in the brain can undermine the 'intuitive' support for religious belief, at least temporarily,” says Ara Norenzayan, co-author of the study.

(Photo by Prem Anandh via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Jennifer Chan
Assistant Managing Editor
Jennifer Chan was a contributing writer for Female Network for two years before formally joining the team as a staff writer in July 2012... Read more...
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