Analytical atheists

26th April 2012
Are you more a thinker or a doer? According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, you’re less likely to be religious if you’re a thinker.

Psychologists believe that humans process information in two main ways: some thought processes are more intuitive and automatic, whilst others are more analytical and deliberative. Previous studies had shown that religious and supernatural beliefs are associated with intuition. In this study, the psychologists set out to investigate whether the flipside is true: are analytical thinkers less likely to be religious?

Canadian undergraduates were asked to answer three questions which forced them to ignore their intuition and use analytical thinking (you can try out a couple of these below). Then, the students took a survey designed to assess their religious beliefs. Those who performed better in the test tended to be less religious.

However, the researchers point out that analytical thinking is just one of the factors that can draw people away from religion. And there are also plenty of believers who are more analytically-minded – just ask John Polkinghorne or Francis Collins.

Test yourself

Test your analytical thinking skills with these questions from the study, written by Associate Professor Ara Norenzayan and Will Gervais. The answers might not be as obvious as you think…

1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? ____ cents

2) If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? ____ minutes