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"VANCOUVER — A University of British Columbia study suggests analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith.
The psychology report, published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, reveals that religious belief drops after subjects perform analytical tasks or are exposed to Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker.
However, UBC social psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan insist they are not debunking religion or promoting atheism. Instead, they are trying to figure out the psychological origins of spirituality.
The dynamic UBC research duo, who have earned international reputations for their groundbreaking studies into religion in the past six years, maintain all humans use two valuable types of thinking — intuitive and analytical.
How much you rely on one kind of thinking over another generally determines how religious you are. People who are highly intuitive tend to be more religious.
Intuitive thinking helps people recognize the difference between the body and the mind, imagine life after death and discern purposes in the universe, said Will Gervais, lead author of the article, titled “Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief”.
In contrast, analytic thinking reduces intuitions of God, of an afterlife and of experiences of divine presence, say Gervais and Norenzayan, whose latest research surveyed 650 people, mostly from B.C. Some lived in other parts of North America.
“Our study builds on previous research that links religious beliefs to ‘intuitive’ thinking. Our findings suggest that activating the ‘analytic’ cognitive system in the brain can undermine the ‘intuitive’ support for religious belief, at least temporarily,” said Norenzayan, an associate psychology professor."