A new study has shown that religious people are often egocentric when they make conclusions about other people's beliefs.
The research has appeared in the Nov 30 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Research team led by Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, conducted a string of surveys and neuroimaging studies to assess the degree to which people's personal beliefs influence their predictions about God's beliefs.
The PNAS paper details the results of seven different studies. The first four consist of surveys of Boston rail commuters, undergrads at UChicago and a nationally representative database of online respondents in the US. In these surveys volunteers spelt out their personal belief about an issue, their idea of God's belief, along with numerous others, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, President George W. Bush, and an average American.
Two other studies manipulated people's personal beliefs and discovered that presumption about God's beliefs tracked their own beliefs.
The last study consisted of functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural activity of participants as they reasoned about their own beliefs against those of God or other people.
It was found that reasoning about God's beliefs activated many of the same regions that were active when people articulated their own beliefs.
The researchers write: "The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing...This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."