For many people, believing in God comes down to a gut feeling that a benevolent deity is out there. A study now finds that gut feelings may be very important in determining who goes to church every Sunday and who avoids the pews.
People who are generally more intuitive in the way they think and make decisions are more likely to believe in God than those who ruminate over their choices, the researchers found. The findings suggest that basic differences in thinking style can influence religious belief.
"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," study researcher Amitai Shenhav of Harvard University said in a statement. "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."
The participants took a three-question math test with questions such as, "A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?" The intuitive answer to that question is 10 cents, since most people's first impulse is to knock $1 off the total. But people who use "reflective" reasoning to question their first impulse are more likely to get the correct answer: 5 cents.