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Religiosity is not associated with intuition

Religiousness does not depend on whether a person is prone by nature more intuitive or analytical thinking.


The search for the origins of faith today does not only philosophy but also science. (Photo: Pixabay.com.)

About the origins of religion people began to think for a long time, but the most interesting began, when the opportunity to connect the scientific method to the discussion on the topic of religion.

In the literature on cognitive psychology it is argued that there is a direct link between intuitive thinking and belief in God. It is believed that this belief is innate, arises from the way our brain processes information and that it has common roots with our tendency to perceive inanimate as animate. (It is no secret that we sometimes catch ourselves not very adequate from the point of view of the mind behavior: threaten Tartakovskaya technique or even beat it, we suspect some sort of evil or good intent in a totally random set of circumstances, etc .)

When we think intuitively, in the brain active so-called System 1 that processes information rapidly and requires almost no intellectual effort. If we decided to “stretch the brain”, that is, to use analytical thinking, turn on the System 2 that processes information more slowly and thoroughly. It is believed that the belief in the supernatural is the result of the predominance of the person of System 1 over System 2, and that the scale of belief in the supernatural can be predicted on the basis of how people in life relies more on intuitive thinking than analytical.

Scientific arguments in favor of this hypothesis have been many. The research suggests that people prone to analytical thinking, less likely to believe in God than those who prefer to use intuition; and if the experiment in humans, analytical thinking, a degree of religiosity such subjects decreased.

To stimulate analytical thinking, used special techniques – for example, giving a test of religion, formulated his deliberately complex language, or showed before the test photograph of the sculpture “the Thinker” by Auguste Rodin. What happens in this case with the person in psychology is called recording settings – in other words, working in the future with some information, people will use mental strategies, which he has just imposed.

Some of the experts here have any doubts: in particular, they noted that the results of such studies could be the result of the experiment. What people usually checked first, analytical thinking, and then religion, making them like unnaturally analytical, in reality, they could be more religious. Doubt was resolved by changing the structure of the experiment. However, so far nobody objected to the idea that religion, in principle, depends on the propensity for analytical thinking.

And researchers from the University of Coventry, together with colleagues from Oxford, the University of Nottingham and a number of scientific centers were here first, their results are in contradiction with this idea. What they did was largely different from what worked for their predecessors.

First, the study involved the pilgrims going to the tomb of the Apostle James in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela (one of the biggest pilgrimage routes in the world). The sample turned out patchy, it included representatives of different nationalities and religious denominations with different pilgrimage “experience”. Previous research conducted mostly on students (for the most part, universities in North America), and that no one was particularly looking for people who are experiencing real religious experience every day.

Second, instead of stimulate in the subjects of analytical thinking, it was decided, on the contrary, strengthen them intuitive. To do this, pilgrims have uploaded the meaningless manipulation of numbers that had to be performed simultaneously with the test for religiosity. Manipulation of the numbers interfered with the analytical focus on the test, so people started to rely more on intuition.

The survey had three of the experiment. In the first checked people’s propensity for intuitive thinking, and then find out just how much they are steeped in religion. The tendency to intuitive thinking were tested with a task that can be solved in a logical or intuitive way. In the end, between the strength of religious beliefs and love of intuitive communication solutions could not be found.

In the second experiment was a test of religiosity: people were, what happened to him or that fictional story, after which he answered various questions that revealed how much he is inclined to see any signs from above, and so researchers have tried to strengthen intuitive thinking (as described above), but the test is not affected – stimulation of intuitive thinking did not influence the level of religiosity.

Finally, in the third experiment used transcranial electrical stimulation, which can be used to act on the part of the brain from the outside, without surgery. The pilgrims stimulated the right inferior frontal gyrus, which helps us to deal with the obvious at first glance, but with wrong solutions, that is, suppress intuition in favor of analytical thinking. It is known that atheists, when they try to avoid thinking about the supernatural, active this area of the brain. And again, the stimulation of “intelligence” did not affect test scores on religiosity.

In an article in Scientific Reports the authors offer several possible interpretations of the results. On the one hand, it is possible that religiosity is combined with a tendency to intuitive thinking only in a certain cultural context. As already mentioned, previous studies have focused on Americans, and now the sample consisted of residents of Europe.

The results of opinion polls, Europe is less religious than the United States. It is possible that the belief in God in a more secular society, more demanding of the intellect, because the believer often have to defend their positions. This is indirectly confirmed by sociological studies showing that in Britain, religious people up to 35 years and better educated than non-religious.

On the other hand, the idea that people believe because they rely more on intuition and less on analytical thinking than the unbelievers, may be fundamentally wrong. Faith and unbelief can fully depend on cultural environment and education level, not cognitive strategies.

The article says that there is scarcely a natural, intuitive desire to believe, because otherwise, not very clear on the existence of disbelievers: why from an evolutionary point of view, someone to spend the mental effort to suppress my attraction to the faith? Of course, this is a very bold claims, and if we consider that the hypothesis about the connection of faith with intuition dominates in science for twenty years, it will be quite interesting to see how to react to the scientific community and that will show the following studies.

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