Study: "[A]nalytic thinking promotes religious disbelief”

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
In the first of five tests, people who solved a math problem analytically rather than arriving at the intuitive answer were more likely to report religious disbelief. For example: 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? The intuitive answer is $0.10; the analytic answer is $0.05.

I'm pretty analytical and I'm still having trouble with the .05... seems to me there is an ambiguity issue with the question.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Actually, I think the analytic answer is $0.10 - at least that's my gut instinct.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Forrest's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
In the first of five tests, people who solved a math problem analytically rather than arriving at the intuitive answer were more likely to report religious disbelief. For example: 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? The intuitive answer is $0.10; the analytic answer is $0.05.

I'm pretty analytical and I'm still having trouble with the .05... seems to me there is an ambiguity issue with the question.

Bat = Ball + $1

Bat + Ball = $1.10

(Ball + $1) + Ball = $1.10

2 Balls =$0.10

Ball = $0.05

Forrest Berry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I still say it's ambiguous language.
Does "costs $1 more than the ball" mean "the price of the bat is $1 higher than the price of the ball" (ball = .05, bat = $1.05) or does it mean "the bat costs an additional dollar beyond the cost of the ball" (bat = 1.00, ball = .10)?
Due to its ambiguity, the question is defective for measuring analytical vs. intuitive thinking.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Maybe you're not as analytical as you believe, or at least in a case like this with mathematical word problems. To me it was constructed just the way its results intended, to find the more analytical minds. If there is ambiguity (I personally don't see that) it is just for that purpose, to guage which road one will take. However, while this small sample may encourage a theory it certainly has a million miles to go before its premise can usefully be prescribed.

Lee's picture

All analytical/intuitive mumbo-jumbo aside, I am really interested in finding the store where you can buy bats for a buck and balls for a nickel. Not sure if that makes me spiritual or agnostic, but that's where my interest lies.

Lee

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, if you look at it as a story problem, I have to admit it's worded correctly to convey that the $1 is not the cost of the bat but the relationship of the cost relative to the ball's cost.
In some ways it illustrates the limits of the value of analytical thinking. In conversation, someone describing a purchase in those terms would almost certainly intend that it was a one dollar bat and a ten cent ball (especially if--please don't stone me--you're talking to a woman).

I'm going to have to run this one by my students one of these days and see how many of them notice the ambiguity vs. how many take it "analytically" and how many take it "intuitively."

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

handerson's picture

I think part of the issue stems from defining analytical thinking in relationship to only on specific type of data--numbers. Isn't it possible to be analytical in other areas--like relationships etc.? People who "intuitively" know what another person is feeling are often analyzing subtle cues like body language and voice inflection perhaps without even recognizing it. Intuition, in this sense, is just as likely based on analytical properties as "scientific" engagement. And this is my problem with the whole premise of the study--it creates a false dichotomy between intuition and analysis. Because in some sense, a person who gazes at the starry night sky and "intuitively" knows that God exists is no less analyzing data than the scientist in the lab who determines that his empirical data doesn't make room for the supernatural.

Charlie's picture

I don't understand the conclusions in this study, which is that triggering analytic thinking can temporarily suppress religious belief. Right? If I understand the method, they primed people for analytic thinking, then tested their religious beliefs. But, wouldn't one need some kind of before and after to gauge whether the analytic priming was actually altering the belief? I understand that they could (potentially) measure correlation, but assigning causality seems farfetched.

Also, I take issue with regarding .10 as an "intuitive" answer. It's not, it's just wrong. Getting it wrong doesn't mean someone is intuitive or even non-analytical. It just means he or she isn't very familiar with mathematical word problems.

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christian cerna's picture

This smells rotten. What they are basically saying is that people who are good at Math are more likely to be Atheists, and people who are bad at Math are more likely to be Religious.

But I am sure that if you take a survey of Church people, you will find plenty of both good and bad mathematicians.

Brandon Crawford's picture

The frustration that many have expressed at this test question comes from the fact that it is inherently manipulative.

Here's what I mean: When you set up a test question where the "analytical thinker" will be the one who answers correctly, and the "intuitive thinker" will be answering incorrectly, it creates the impression that the analytical thinker has a superior intellect, while the intuitive thinker is misguided.

So when we hear that analytical thinkers are not religious, but intuitive thinkers are religious, we are left to conclude that religious belief is misguided.

As I said, very manipulative.

christian cerna's picture

You are correct. While the analytic thinker is an intelligent person also, it is different type of intelligence than the intuitive thinker. An analytic thinker often focuses on the individual parts of a problem better, to the exclusion of the overall picture. The intuitive thinker can see the overall picture better, and that is necessary when dealing with abstract concepts, such as God, life, religion, love, justice, etc. So an intuitive thinker is more naturally drawn to discussions regarding religion, whereas an analytic thinker does not necessarily see the point, since he cannot measure it, or apply a formula to it.

Both types of people are necessary in society. Without the analytic thinkers we would not have engineers, chemists, mathematicians, etc. While without intuitive thinkers we would not have philosophers, politicians, musicians, artists, theologians, preachers, poets, writers, etc.