Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why We Believe

I have just finished the book SUPERSENSE - Why We Believe in the Unbelievable by Bruce M. Hood. Thought you might enjoy the following excerpt regarding belief in the supernatural . . .

     Psychologists have come to the conclusion that there are at least two different systems operating when it comes to thinking and reasoning. One system is believed to be evolutionarily more ancient in terms of human development; it has been called intuitive, natural, automatic, heuristic, and implicit. It is the system we think is operating in young children before they reach school age. The second system is one that is believed to be more recent in human evolution; it permits logical reasoning but is limited by executive functions . . . This second reasoning system has been called conceptual-logical, analytical-rational, deliberative-effortful-intentional-systematic, and explicit. It emerges much later in development and underpins the capacity of the child to perform logical, rational problem-solving. When we reason about the world using these two systems, they may sometimes work in competition with each other.
     One might assume that those prone to the supersense and belief in the paranormal (or supernatural) are lacking in rational thought processes, but that would be too simplistic. Studies reveal that the two systems of thinking, the intuitive and the rational, coexist in the same individuals. There are, in effect, two different ways of interpreting the world. In fact, when we measure reliance on intuition, no relationship has been found with intelligence. Intuitive people are not more stupid. They are, however, more prone to supernatural belief . . . The supersense lingers in the back of our minds, influencing our behaviors and thoughts, and our mood may play a triggering role. This explains why perfectly rational, highly educated individuals can still hold supernatural beliefs.

barry e