Why do we believe in gods? Religious belief ‘not linked to intuition or rational thinking’
- Published: Wednesday, 13 December 2017 07:05
[The study challenges a growing trend that has attempted to show that believing in the supernatural is something that comes to us ‘naturally’ or intuitively]
New research suggests that people are not ‘born believers’
Previous studies have suggested people who hold strong religious beliefs are more intuitive and less analytical, and when they think more analytically their religious beliefs decrease.
But new research, by academics from Coventry University's Centre for Advances in Behavioral Science and neuroscientists and philosophers at Oxford University, suggests that is not the case, and that people are not ‘born believers.’
The study – which included tests on pilgrims taking part in the famous Camino de Santiago and a brain stimulation experiment – found no link between intuitive/analytical thinking, or cognitive inhibition (an ability to suppress unwanted thoughts and actions), and supernatural beliefs.
Instead, the academics conclude that other factors, such as upbringing and socio-cultural processes, are more likely to play a greater role in religious beliefs.
The study – published in Scientific Reports – was the first to challenge a growing trend among cognitive psychologists over the past 20 years that has attempted to show that believing in the supernatural is something that comes to us ‘naturally’ or intuitively.
The team started by carrying out an investigation on one of the largest pilgrimage routes in the world – the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain.
They asked pilgrims about the strength of their beliefs and the length of time spent on the pilgrimage and assessed their levels of intuitive thinking with a probability task, where participants had to decide between a logical and a ‘gut feeling’ choice.
The results suggested no link between strength of supernatural belief and intuition.