Religious belief - faith in the existence of someone or something that is beyond the ability of science to prove or disprove – is one of the hallmarks of the human race. The vast majority of the planet’s population (75%-99% by some estimates) identify themselves as having some kind of religious belief.
So it’s no wonder that researchers are fascinated with the mental underpinnings of this uniquely human trait. The question “why do people believe?” is right up there with “why do people love?” – for those who study the human brain and try to unravel its deepest riddles.
But a surprising new report by psychologists William Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, of the University of British Columbia, would seem to indicate that your inclination to be religious can be – at least in part – determined by how you approach a math problem.
Here it is:
If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?*
Okay, now that you’ve given it some thought, I’ll let you in on what this is all about.
It turns out nearly everyone who answers this question come up with one of two possible responses.
Some people say the ball cost $10.
Others say it cost $5.
The mathematically correct answer is $5.
If that was your answer, you are an analytical thinker and – according to results of this study – more likely not to have any religious beliefs.
If you said the ball cost $10 (and I confess to being one of those people), you are an intuitive thinker and thus more likely to hold a religious belief of some kind.