Washington: Researchers at Harvard University have found that people with a more intuitive thinking style tend to have stronger beliefs in God than those with a more reflective style.
The finding may help explain why some people have more faith in God than others, according to the researchers.
Intuitive thinking means going with one’s first instinct and reaching decisions quickly based on automatic cognitive processes.
Reflective thinking involves the questioning of first instinct and consideration of other possibilities, thus allowing for counterintuitive decisions.
“We wanted to explain variations in belief in God in terms of more basic cognitive processes,” said researcher Amitai Shenhav, a doctoral student at the Harvard University Psychology Department.
“Some say we believe in God because our intuitions about how and why things happen lead us to see a divine purpose behind ordinary events that don’t have obvious human causes.
“This led us to ask whether the strength of an individual’s beliefs is influenced by how much they trust their natural intuitions versus stopping to reflect on those first instincts,” he explained.
When participants were surveyed about their beliefs after a writing exercise, the study found those who wrote about a successful intuitive experience were more likely to report they were convinced of God’s existence than those who wrote about a successful reflective experience.
The study also found that participants with an intuitive thinking style were more likely to have become more confident believers in God over their lifetimes, regardless of whether they had a religious upbringing.
Individuals with a reflective style tended to become less confident in their belief in God.
These studies suggested a causal link between intuitive thinking and a belief in God, but the researchers acknowledged the opposite might also be true, that a belief in God may lead to intuitive thinking.
The study was published by the American Psychological Association.