Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pathologizing analytical thinking

NewScientist reports:
People with autism appear less likely to believe in God – a discovery that has strengthened theories that religious belief relies on being able to imagine what God is thinking, a capacity known as "mentalising".

One of the hallmarks of autism is an impaired ability to infer and respond to what other people are thinking, so the investigators wondered whether this would affect their likelihood of believing in God.

In a study of adolescents questioned on their beliefs, those with autism were almost 90 per cent less likely than non-autistic peers to express a strong belief in God.

The study – along with three others that questioned hundreds of people about religious belief and mentalisation abilities – also showed that men are worse than women at mentalising. This correlated with them being less likely than women to believe in God.

"We reasoned that if thinking about a personal god engages mentalising abilities, then mentalising deficits would be expected to make belief in a personal god less intuitive, and therefore less believable," says Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and joint head of the investigation. "We found support for this in four different studies."
So you are more likely to believe in God if you also believe that you can read God's mind as well. The strange part of this story is to describe people as mentally deficient if they do not claim to mindread God. That is backwards.

Claiming to be able to able to mindread God should be considered a symptom of schizophrenia, along with hearing voices in your head.
The researchers caution, however, that the findings do not prove that belief in God relies exclusively on mentalisation. "We cannot infer causality without further research," says Norenzayan, pointing out that there are many other reasons why people may or may not believe in God, whether or not they are good at mentalising. Norenzayan's own research team has shown, for example, that analytical thinkers are less likely to believe in God.

Conversely, says Norenzayan, people may adopt religion for a host of psychological and cultural reasons independent of "mind-reading" abilities.
Yes, people believe in God for various reasons. It seems obvious that analytical thinkers would be less likely to believe in God, and less likely to suffer mindreading delusions.

This is another example of psychologists trying to pathologize analytical thinkers.

The study is here.

1 comment:

A K Haart said...

"This is another example of psychologists trying to pathologize analytical thinkers."

Maybe analytical thinkers need to pathologize psychologists more often.