Atheists are more intelligent than religious people, according to a recent study.
Numerous research teams have attempted to tackle the relationship between religion and IQ before but have never really reached a conclusion.
This study however claims that because religious people largely rely on intuition, they tend to be less intelligent.
In a paper entitled The Negative Relationship between Reasoning and Religiosity Is Underpinned by a Bias for Intuitive Responses Specifically When Intuition and Logic Are in Conflict, published in the Frontiers In Psychology journal, the researchers explain how they surveyed more than 63,000 people online who indicated whether they were religious, atheist or agnostic.
These people were then asked to complete a series of 12 cognitive tasks in 30 minutes.
The challenges tested the participants’ memory, attention, planning and reasoning with atheists performing better overall when compared to those who stated they were religious.
The agnostics meanwhile mostly placed between atheists and religious people in all tasks.
Overall the results showed the stronger the religious conviction, the worse the cognitive performance.
However, the differences between religious people and atheists were only minor in the tasks that tested memory with the contrast being much more striking in the challenges requiring reasoning.
The researchers concluded those with religious conviction had lower IQ test results in these tasks as intuition and logic came into conflict.
One of the challenges the participants were faced with was an extreme version of the Stroop Task, otherwise known as ‘colour-word-remapping’.
This task was designed on purpose to create as much conflict as possible with religious people struggling compared to atheists.
Richard Daws and Adam Hampshire, of Imperial College London, wrote about their findings, saying:
It is well established that religiosity correlates inversely with intelligence. A prominent hypothesis states that this correlation reflects behavioural biases toward intuitive problem solving, which causes errors when intuition conflicts with reasoning.
We tested predictions of this hypothesis by analysing data from two large-scale Internet-cohort studies. We report that atheists surpass religious individuals in terms of reasoning but not working-memory performance.
The religiosity effect is robust across sociodemographic factors including age, education and country of origin.
It varies significantly across religions and this co-occurs with substantial cross-group differences in religious dogmatism.
Critically, the religiosity effect is strongest for tasks that explicitly manipulate conflict; more specifically, atheists outperform the most dogmatic religious group by a substantial margin during a colour conflict task but not during a challenging matrix-reasoning task.
Although the researchers do state more work needs to be done, this is a huge step when it comes to looking at the relationship between religion and intelligence.
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.