The God Allusion : Individual Variation in Agency Detection, Mentalizing and Schizotypy and Their Association with Religious Beliefs and Behaviors.
Wlodarski R., Pearce E.
It has previously been suggested that the historically and geographically widespread persistence of religious beliefs occurs because it is a by-product of normal cognitive processes, ones which first evolved to confer survival advantages in the social domain. If this theory holds, then it is likely that inter-individual variation in the same biases may predict corresponding variation in religious thoughts and behaviors. Using an online questionnaire, 298 participants answered questions regarding their tendency to detect agency, the degree to which they displayed schizotypal traits, their ability to understand the emotions and motivations of others ("mentalizing"), and their religious beliefs and behaviors. Path analysis suggests that mentalizing, agency detection, and schizotypal thinking were each independently related to religiosity. Furthermore, schizotypal thinking and agency detection were highly interrelated with one another, whereas mentalizing was not. Although the degree to which an individual engages with religious or spiritual beliefs will be influenced by their cultural and historical context, this paper helps to elucidate the interplay between various cognitive processes that might predispose some individuals but not others toward holding such beliefs in the first place.