If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

by David Ng

The correct answer is $5.

If you got this right then according to a study by Harvard neuroscientist and philosopher Joshua Greene, you are more likely to be skeptical of religion. If you had said $10, then you are more inclined to believe in religion.

Although $0.10 comes easily to mind (it’s the intuitive answer), it takes some analytical thought to come up with the correct answer of $0.05. People who chose more intuitive answers on these questions were more likely to report stronger religious beliefs, even when the researchers controlled for IQ, education, political leanings, and other factors.

What’s even more interesting is that a new study by UBC’s Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan that would suggest that if you encourage analytical thinking, you can also encourage disbelief in religion.

To test this idea, the duo devised several ways to subconsciously put people in what they considered a more analytical mindset. In one experiment with 57 undergraduate students, some volunteers viewed artwork depicting a reflective thinking pose (such as Rodin’s The Thinker) while others viewed art depicting less intellectual pursuits (such as throwing a discus) before answering questionnaires about their faith. In another experiment with 93 undergraduates and a larger sample of 148 American adults recruited online, some subjects solved word puzzles that incorporated words such as “analyze,” “reason,” and “ponder,” while others completed similar puzzles with only words unrelated to thinking, such as “high” and “plane.” In all of these experiments, people who got the thinking-related cues reported weaker religious beliefs on the questionnaires taken afterward than did the control group.

For more on this, see this short Science piece. For the full paper (“Analytic Thinking Promotes Religious Disbelief”), go to this link (pdf of first page here Jpg below)