Friday, May 4, 2012

Beware The Thinkers

It was published in Science, one of the most highly regarded research-oriented publications in the world; and it came to a conclusion that seems fairly obvious, in that it agrees with what I've said here many times. Still, I find the methodology a little suspect:

Those who think more analytically are less inclined to be religious believers than are those who tend to follow a gut instinct, researchers conclude. (Uriel Sinai / Getty Images / April 26, 2012)

Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

...would thinking analytically undermine religious belief as it overrides intuitive thought?

To find out, his research team had college students perform three thinking tasks, each with an intuitive (incorrect) answer and an analytic (correct) answer.


After answering three of these questions, the students were asked to rate a series of statements on belief, including, "In my life I feel the presence of the Divine," and "I just don't understand religion." Students who answered the three questions correctly — and presumably did a better job of engaging their analytical skills — were more likely to score lower on the belief scales.

If I understand it correctly, the study is saying that one's religiosity can change from moment to moment, depending on whether in a prior moment a person had been thinking. It's no surprise that thinking people, analytic people, would be less inclined toward magical thinking than their unthinkly counterparts. But if the conclusion is that you become less religious as you're thinking -- from which one would conclude that it reverts to baseline again, once thoughts are packed away -- it seems wrong. Then again, who am I to question science?

On the other hand, it certainly explains the continual efforts of the RWS™ and Fox "news" to prevent their audience from thinking. They seem to have intuited that once you let cognition and analysis get their liberal feet in the door, all no-hell breaks loose.

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