Atheists and agnostics are more reflective than religious believers

four empirical studies and a meta-analysis

Gordon Pennycook, Robert M. Ross, Derek J. Koehler, Jonathan A. Fugelsang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Individual differences in the mere willingness to think analytically has been shown to predict religious disbelief. Recently, however, it has been argued that analytic thinkers are not actually less religious; rather, the putative association may be a result of religiosity typically being measured after analytic thinking (an order effect). In light of this possibility, we report four studies in which a negative correlation between religious belief and performance on analytic thinking measures is found when religious belief is measured in a separate session. We also performed a meta-analysis on all previously published studies on the topic along with our four new studies (N = 15,078, k = 31), focusing specifically on the association between performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test (the most widely used individual difference measure of analytic thinking) and religious belief. This meta-analysis revealed an overall negative correlation (r) of -.18, 95% CI [-.21, -.16]. Although this correlation is modest, self-identified atheists (N = 133) scored 18.7% higher than religiously affiliated individuals (N = 597) on a composite measure of analytic thinking administered across our four new studies (d = .72). Our results indicate that the association between analytic thinking and religious disbelief is not caused by a simple order effect. There is good evidence that atheists and agnostics are more reflective than religious believers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0153039
Pages (from-to)e0153039-1-e0153039-18
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Atheists and agnostics are more reflective than religious believers: four empirical studies and a meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this