People who have an intuitive thinking style are more likely to have faith in God than those who are more reflective.
That's the word from Harvard University researchers, who have linked thinking styles and faith.
Which thinking style describes you?
- Intuitive thinking means going with one's first instinct and reaching decisions quickly based on automatic cognitive processes.
- Reflective thinking involves the questioning of first instinct and consideration of other possibilities, thus allowing for counterintuitive decisions.
"We wanted to explain variations in belief in God in terms of more basic cognitive processes," researcher Amitai Shenhav said. "Some say we believe in God because our intuitions about how and why things happen lead us to see a divine purpose behind ordinary events that don't have obvious human causes. This led us to ask whether the strength of an individual's beliefs is influenced by how much they trust their natural intuitions versus stopping to reflect on those first instincts."
The study: In the first part of the study, 882 U.S. adults, with a mean age of 33 and consisting of 64 percent women, completed online surveys about their belief in God before taking a cognitive reflection test. The test had three math problems with incorrect answers that seemed intuitive. For example, one question stated: "A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?" The automatic or intuitive answer is 10 cents, but the correct answer is 5 cents. Participants who had more incorrect answers showed a greater reliance on intuition than reflection in their thinking style.
The results: Participants who gave intuitive answers to all three problems were 1.5 times as likely to report they were convinced of God's existence as those who answered all of the questions correctly. That pattern was found regardless of other demographic factors, such as the participants' political beliefs, education or income.
"How people think--or fail to think--about the prices of bats and balls is reflected in their thinking and ultimately their convictions about the metaphysical order of the universe," the researchers stated in a news release.
So how does your thinking style reflect your belief in God?
- Intuitive thinkers in this study were more likely to have become more confident believers in God over their lifetimes, regardless of whether they had a religious upbringing.
- Reflective thinkers tended to become less confident in their belief in God.
The study also found that this pronounced link between differing thinking styles and levels of faith could not be explained by differences in the participants' thinking ability or IQ.
"Basic ways of thinking about problem solving in your everyday life are predictive of how much you believe in God," Rand said. "It's not that one way is better than the other. Intuitions are important and reflection is important, and you want some balance of the two. Where you are on that spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God."
The study findings were published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
--From the Editors at Netscape