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Cognition. 2015 Jul;140:72-88. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.02.005. Epub 2015 Apr 13.

The divided mind of a disbeliever: Intuitive beliefs about nature as purposefully created among different groups of non-religious adults.

Author information

1
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, 64 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA 02215, United States; Department of World Cultures, Study of Religions, University of Helsinki, Unioninkatu 38 E, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. Electronic address: e.jarnefelt@newman.ac.uk.
2
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, 64 Cummington Mall, Boston, MA 02215, United States.

Abstract

Do non-religious adults - despite their explicit disavowal of religious beliefs - have a tacit tendency to view nature as purposefully created by some being? This question was explored in three online studies using a speeded judgment procedure, which assessed disbelievers in two different Western cultures (United States and Finland). Despite strong performance on control trials, across all three studies non-religious individuals displayed a default bias to increasingly judge pictures of natural phenomena as "purposefully made by some being" under processing constraints. Personal beliefs in the supernatural agency of nature ("Gaia beliefs") consistently predicted this tendency. However, beliefs in nature as purposefully made by some being persisted even when such secular agency beliefs were controlled. These results suggest that the tendency to view nature as designed is rooted in evolved cognitive biases as well as cultural socialization.

KEYWORDS:

Atheism; Dual process theory; Intentional reasoning; Religion; Supernatural agent

PMID:
25880608
DOI:
10.1016/j.cognition.2015.02.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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