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Cognitive psychology research demonstrates that religious beliefs can influence mental processing

September 16, 2010

Researchers into brain functioning in the Netherlands conducted an experiment which seems to show a correlation between participants religious views and the way they interpreted the same geometric diagrams presented to them in the test.

The task was straightforward. Participants were presented with squares made up of little rectangles, or vice versa. Depending on the condition – global vs. local processing – they had to indicate as fast as possible with a key press what the big shape was or what the little shapes were. Someone with a bias towards local processing would be expected to perform more quickly when identifying the little shapes, whereas someone with a mind tuned to the big picture should be faster when identifying the big shapes.

Clear differences emerged between the groups: the life-long atheists showed the strongest bias for the big picture, followed by the Liberal Calvinists, and then the Conservative Calvinists and the former Conservative Calvinists turned atheist. The latter two groups performed similarly suggesting that more than seven years without religious practice wasn’t enough to remove the effects of the religion on a person’s attentional mindset.

What is being demonstrated is that abstract beliefs have a direct impact on the ability of people to literally see or not see things with their eyes.

The whole article is here.


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