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Description: At first glance it may seem odd or perhaps inappropriate to conduct research into the nature and even into the brain function associated with religious belief. However, rather than seeing religious belief and science as antithetical think a bit about what sorts of cognitive functioning might be correlated with religious belief. For example, how might strength of religious belief be related to analytic thinking? Once you have a hypothesis or two in mind read the article linked below which reports on a recent finding that is shaking the science in this area up a bit.

Source: Why do we believe in gods? Religious belief ‘not linked to intuition or rational thinking’, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 8, 2017

Photo Credit:  enterlinedesign/Fotilia

Links:  Article Link — https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171108092429.htm

Until this study came along the general consensus seemed to be that religiosity was associated with being more intuitive and less analytic a thinker. This was tied to the possibility that we are born with a tendency to believe in something “bigger than ourselves” at an intuitive level. If this were true, then one might expect that thinking analytically would require the inhibition of intuitive or supernatural beliefs. The study reported in the linked article suggested otherwise. When the researchers used electronic brain stimulation to increase the inhibition function there was no corresponding decrease in religious feelings suggesting that religiosity is more a learned (through socialization or upbringing) factor. The findings provide a lot to think and to hypothesize about and lots of room for more research!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might religiosity be related to cognitive functioning?
  2. What do we have in mind when we say that something is a part of intuitive functioning?
  3. IS it necessary to take an either /or approach to religiosity and science? If not how might we think about the possible relationships between these two things?

References (Read Further):

Miguel Farias, Valerie van Mulukom, Guy Kahane, Ute Kreplin, Anna Joyce, Pedro Soares, Lluis Oviedo, Mathilde Hernu, Karolina Rokita, Julian Savulescu, Riikka Möttönen. Supernatural Belief Is Not Modulated by Intuitive Thinking Style or Cognitive Inhibition. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14090-9 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-14090-9.pdf

Kapogiannis, D., Barbey, A. K., Su, M., Zamboni, G., Krueger, F., & Grafman, J. (2009). Cognitive and neural foundations of religious belief. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(12), 4876-4881. http://www.pnas.org/content/106/12/4876.full

Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief. Science, 336(6080), 493-496. http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/1104317/1530139681/name/Analytic%20Thinking%20Promotes%20Religious%20Disbelief.pdf

Atran, S., & Henrich, J. (2010). The evolution of religion: How cognitive by-products, adaptive learning heuristics, ritual displays, and group competition generate deep commitments to prosocial religions. Biological Theory, 5(1), 18-30. https://hal-ens.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/50/51/93/PDF/biot_a_00018-atran_proof1.pdf

Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Like a camera in the sky? Thinking about God increases public self-awareness and socially desirable responding. Journal of experimental social psychology, 48(1), 298-302. http://math.as.uky.edu/sites/default/files/Gervais%20%26%20Norenzayan-2011-JESP.pdf

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