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Implicit pattern learning predicts individual differences in belief in God in the United States and Afghanistan


Weinberger, Adam B; Gallagher, Natalie M; Warren, Zachary J; English, Gwendolyn A; Moghaddam, Fathali M; Green, Adam E (2020). Implicit pattern learning predicts individual differences in belief in God in the United States and Afghanistan. Nature Communications, 11:4503.

Abstract

Most humans believe in a god, but many do not. Differences in belief have profound societal impacts. Anthropological accounts implicate bottom-up perceptual processes in shaping religious belief, suggesting that individual differences in these processes may help explain variation in belief. Here, in findings replicated across socio-religiously disparate samples studied in the U.S. and Afghanistan, implicit learning of patterns/order within visuospatial sequences (IL-pat) in a strongly bottom-up paradigm predict 1) stronger belief in an intervening/ordering god, and 2) increased strength-of-belief from childhood to adulthood, controlling for explicit learning and parental belief. Consistent with research implicating IL-pat as a basis of intuition, and intuition as a basis of belief, mediation models support a hypothesized effect pathway whereby IL-pat leads to intuitions of order which, in turn, lead to belief in ordering gods. The universality and variability of human IL-pat may thus contribute to the global presence and variability of religious belief.

Abstract

Most humans believe in a god, but many do not. Differences in belief have profound societal impacts. Anthropological accounts implicate bottom-up perceptual processes in shaping religious belief, suggesting that individual differences in these processes may help explain variation in belief. Here, in findings replicated across socio-religiously disparate samples studied in the U.S. and Afghanistan, implicit learning of patterns/order within visuospatial sequences (IL-pat) in a strongly bottom-up paradigm predict 1) stronger belief in an intervening/ordering god, and 2) increased strength-of-belief from childhood to adulthood, controlling for explicit learning and parental belief. Consistent with research implicating IL-pat as a basis of intuition, and intuition as a basis of belief, mediation models support a hypothesized effect pathway whereby IL-pat leads to intuitions of order which, in turn, lead to belief in ordering gods. The universality and variability of human IL-pat may thus contribute to the global presence and variability of religious belief.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Neuroinformatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > General Chemistry
Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Physical Sciences > General Physics and Astronomy
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Physics and Astronomy, General Chemistry
Language:English
Date:1 December 2020
Deposited On:03 Feb 2021 10:32
Last Modified:04 Feb 2021 21:00
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2041-1723
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18362-3
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDP2SKP3_151971
  • : Project TitleFluctuation analysis of airway function in children with really severe asthma

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