Religious belief can be eroded by analytical thinking, not sparing even in devout believers, posits new study.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, who assessed participants' belief levels using a variety of self-reported measures, found that religious belief decreased when participants were engaged in analytical tasks, compared to those engaged in tasks that did not involve analytical thinking, according to a university statement.
The study, involving more than 650 participants in the US and Canada, also finds that thinking analytically increases disbelief among believers and sceptics alike, shedding new light on the psychology of religious belief.
"Our goal was to explore the fundamental question as to why people believe in God to different degrees," says researcher Will Gervais, doctoral student in psychology at British Columbia.
"A combination of complex factors influence matters of personal spirituality. Our study suggests that the cognitive system related to analytical thoughts is one factor that can influence disbelief," said Geravais, the journal Science reports.
"Our findings suggest that activating the 'analytic' cognitive system in the brain can undermine the 'intuitive' support for religious belief, at least temporarily," says co-researcher Ara Norenzayan, associate professor of psychology at British Columbia.
Gervais says that future studies will explore whether the increase in religious disbelief is temporary or long-lasting, and how the findings apply to non-Western cultures.