Razib Khan highlights a paper about the correlation between intuitive reasoning and belief in God. According to three studies, how a person performs on a Cognitive Reflection Test tells you how likely they are to believe in God and that this likelihood is independent of a whole lot of other factors like education level, IQ, income, and more. A Cognitive Reflection Test is one that gives you math problems that aren’t difficult to solve if you can ignore the intuitive and wrong answers that they all have. Here are some examples:
- A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?
- If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take
100 machines to make 100 widgets?
- In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size.
If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it
take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
(Answers at the end of the post.)
This suggests that people are more likely to believe in God when they rely more on shortcuts in their reasoning. That’s not a knock on shortcut reasoning, which is an essential human skill that lets us react quickly to things that can’t be — or aren’t worth being — thought through analytically.
Khan ties this in with a recent study that shows a link between atheism and autism. Autistic people rely more on analysis than intuition, so it makes sense that they would be less swayed by God’s intuitive nature.
‘People with autism tended to be more consistent in their pattern of choices, their greater attention to detail perhaps helping them avoid being swayed by their emotions,’ says Dr Neil Harrison.
Although this attention to detail and a reduced influence of emotion during decision-making is beneficial in some situations, it may be a handicap in daily life, explains Dr Benedetto De Martino.
‘During social interactions a lot of information must be processed simultaneously, making this a very complicated computational task for the brain,’ he says.
‘To solve these complex problems we rely on simplifying heuristics – gut instincts – rather than extensive logical reasoning.
Answers: 1. $0.05, 2. 5 minutes, 3. 47 days