Saturday, June 16, 2012

Belief in God linked to ability to mentalize

Whether a person believes in God might be linked to humans' cognitive ability to infer other people's mental states (known as mentalizing).  This might explain why women tend to be more religious then men, and why people who score higher on the autism spectrum tend to believe in God less than the general population.

Study leaders Ara Norenzayan and Will Gervais of the University of British Columbia said mentalizing, or "theory of mind," is a psychological concept that describes the ability to understand the mental state of oneself and others which allows people to perceive and interpret human behavior in terms of intentional mental states such as needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes and reasons.  Article

Now here is the important part.  "Religious believers intuitively think of their deities as personified beings with mental states who anticipate and respond to human needs and actions," Norenzayan said in a statement. "Therefore, mentalizing deficits would be expected to make religious belief less intuitive."

Interestingly, there are more men who score higher on the autism scale than women.

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