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definition - Religiosity_and_intelligence

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Religiosity and intelligence


The topic of religiosity and intelligence is the relationship between intelligence and religiosity. A number of studies have examined these relationships, while other studies have explored the link between religiosity and issues related to intelligence such as educational level.


  Summary of research and definitions of terms

Intelligence is an umbrella term used to describe a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn. There are several ways to define intelligence. In some cases, intelligence may include traits such as creativity, personality, character, knowledge, or wisdom. However, some psychologists prefer not to include these traits in the definition of intelligence.[1][2]

A widely-researched index or classification of intelligence among scientists is Intelligence Quotient (I.Q.). I.Q. is a summary index, calculated by testing individuals' abilities in a variety of tasks and producing a composite score to represent overall ability, e.g., Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. It is used to predict educational outcomes and other variables of interest.

Others have attempted to measure intelligence indirectly by looking at individuals' or group's educational attainment, although this risks bias from other demographic factors, such as age, income, gender and cultural background, all of which can affect educational attainment.[1]

Dissatisfaction with traditional IQ tests has led to the development of alternative theories, all of which suggest that intelligence is the result of independent abilities that contribute to human performance. In 1983, Howard Gardner proposed the theory of multiple intelligences, which claims a broadening of the conventional definition of intelligence is needed, since, if intelligence is defined as the cognitive or mental capacity of an individual, this would logically include all forms of mental qualities, not simply the ones most transparent to standardized I.Q. tests. The categories of intelligences Gardner proposes are logical, linguistic, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, naturalist, intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences.[3]

Jean Piaget developed stages as an alternative to IQ after studying the nature of the wrong answers on items. The Model of Hierarchical Complexity was formed as an alternative to IQ. Performance on the items varying in hierarchical complexity from 0 to 14, is absolute, and does not require norms. Because the orders are content and context free, they can be used to measure performance in any domain, including the ones mention by Gardner and Goleman.

Religiosity is a sociological term referring to degrees of religious behaviour, belief or spirituality. The measurement of religiosity is hampered by the difficulties involved in defining what is meant by the term. Numerous studies have explored the different components of religiosity, with most finding some distinction between religious beliefs/ doctrine, religious practice, and spirituality. Studies can measure religious practice by counting attendance at religious services, religious beliefs/ doctrine by asking a few doctrinal questions, while spirituality can be measured by asking respondents about their sense of oneness with the divine or through detailed standardized measurements. When religiosity is measured, it is important to specify which aspects of religiosity are referred to.

  Studies comparing religious belief and I.Q.

In 2008, intelligence researcher Helmuth Nyborg examined whether IQ relates to denomination and income, using representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which includes intelligence tests on a representative selection of white American youth, where they have also replied to questions about religious belief. His results, published in the scientific journal Intelligence, demonstrated that Atheists scored an average of 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions.[4]

  The relationship between countries' belief in a god and average Intelligence Quotient, measured by Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg.[5]

Nyborg also co-authored a study with Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, which compared religious belief and average national IQs in 137 countries.[5] The study analysed the issue from several viewpoints. Firstly, using data from a U.S. study of 6,825 adolescents, the authors found that atheists scored 6 IQ points higher than those adhering to a religion.

Secondly, the authors investigated the link between religiosity and intelligence on a country level. Among the sample of 137 countries, only 23 (17%) had more than 20% of atheists, which constituted “virtually all... higher IQ countries.” The authors reported a correlation of 0.60 between atheism rates and level of intelligence, which was determined to be “highly statistically significant”.[5]

Professor Gordon Lynch, from London's Birkbeck College, expressed concern that the study failed to take into account a complex range of social, economic and historical factors— each of which has been shown to interact with religion and IQ in different ways.[6] Gallup surveys, for example, have found that the world's poorest countries are consistently the most religious, perhaps because religion plays a more functional role (helping people cope) in poorer nations.[7][8]


Commenting on some of the above studies in The Daily Telegraph, Lynn said "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."[6] A study in March 2010 published in Social Psychology Quarterly also stated that "atheism ...correlate[s] with higher intelligence".[9]

...belief in God may be intuitive for reasons related to more general features of human cognition that give rise to tendencies toward dualism (Bering, 2006, 2011), anthropomorphism (Epley,Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007; Waytz et al., 2010), and promiscuous teleology (Kelemen & Rosset, 2009)... What’s more, the belief in God may give rise to a feedback cycle whereby satisfying explanatory appeals to God reinforce the intuitive cognitive style that originally favored the belief in God.

- Amitai Shenhav, David G. Rand, and Joshua D. Greene[10]

Even at the scale of the individual, IQ may not directly cause more disbelief in God. Dr David Hardman of London Metropolitan University says: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief." He adds that other studies do nevertheless correlate IQ with being willing or able to question beliefs.[6] The idea that analytical thinking makes one less likely to be religious is an idea supported by other early studies on this issue[11] including a report from Harvard University.[10] First of all, the Harvard researchers found evidence suggesting that all religious beliefs become more confident when participants are thinking intuitively (atheist and theists each become more convinced). Thus reflective thinking generally tends to create more qualified, doubted belief.

On the other hand, the Harvard study found that participants who tended to think more reflectively were less likely to believe in God.[10] Reflective thinking was further correlated with greater changes in beliefs since childhood: these changes were towards atheism for the most reflective participants, and towards greater belief in God for the most intuitive thinkers. The study controlled for personality differences and cognitive ability, suggesting the differences were due to thinking styles - not simply IQ or raw cognitive ability.[10] An experiment in the study found that participants moved towards greater belief in God after writing essays about how intuition yielded a right answer or reflection yielded a wrong answer (and conversely, towards atheism if primed to think about either a failure of intuition or success of reflection). The authors say it is all evidence that a relevant factor in religious belief is thinking style.[10] The authors add that, even if intuitive thinking tends to increase belief in God, "it does not follow that reliance on intuition is always irrational or unjustified."[10]

  Studies examining religiosity and emotional intelligence

A small 2004 study by Ellen Paek empirically examined the extent to which religiosity, operationalized as religious orientation and religious behaviour, is related to the controversial[12][13][14] idea of Emotional Intelligence (EI). The study examined the extent to which religious orientation and behavior were related to self-reported (EI) in 148 church attending adult Christians.[15] (non-religious individuals were not part of the study). The study found that the individuals' self-reported religious orientation was positively correlated with their perceiving themselves to have greater EI. While the number of religious group activities was positively associated with perceived EI, number of years of church attendance was unrelated. Significant positive correlations were also found between level of religious commitment and perceived EI. Thus, the Christian volunteers were more likely to consider themselves emotionally intelligent if they spent more time in group activities and had more commitment to their beliefs.

Tischler, Biberman and McKeage warn that there is still ambiguity in the above concepts. In their 2002 article, entitled “Linking emotional intelligence, spirituality and workplace performance: Definitions, models and ideas for research”, they reviewed literature on both EI and various aspect of spirituality. They found that both EI and spirituality appear to lead to similar attitudes, behaviors and skills, and that there often seems to be confusion, intersection and linking between the two constructs.[16]

  Studies exploring religiosity and educational attainment

In one analysis of World Values Survey data, noted that in 65 former socialist countries "there is a negative relationship between years of education and belief in God", with similar negative correlations for other religious beliefs while, in contrast, there were strong positive correlations in many developed countries such as England, France and the US. They concluded that "these cross-country differences in the education-belief relationship can be explained by political factors (such as communism) which lead some countries to use state controlled education to discredit religion". The study also concludes that, in the United States and other developed nations, "education raises religious attendance at individual level," while "at the same time, there is a strong negative connection between attendance and education across religious groups within the U.S. and elsewhere." The authors suggest that "this puzzle is explained if education both increases the returns to social connection and reduces the extent of religious belief," causing more educated individuals to sort into less fervent denominations.[17] Another cross-national study notes a similar trend in the United States. [18]

This correlation between highly educated people having high levels of religious behaviour in Western nations is supported by other studies: in Australia, 23% of Christian church attenders have earned a university or postgraduate degree, whereas the figure for the general population is 13%.[19] Commentators on the survey attribute the educational levels to sociological factors, such as age, class and income, making no claims about intelligence.[19][20] Other research notes that religious groups in America normally have significant levels of education compared to the nonreligious.[21] Furthermore, research on American post graduates indicates they have a similar religious distribution to the general population meaning that there is no dominant "atheistic naturalism" among the elites. [22] Other investigations have noted that recent trends in research indicate that that students in college are slightly more religious than people who do not go to college. [23] Similarly, studies of Mormons in the US show that Mormons with higher education attend church more regularly than uneducated Mormons. Survey research indicated that 41% of Mormons with only elementary school education attend church regularly, compared to 76% of Mormon college graduates and 78% of Mormons who went beyond their college degrees to do graduate study attending church regularly.[24]

"If it is true that those who are more educated have a greater tendency to question their religious faith, shouldn’t we consider that this might be telling us more about religious faith than about how harmful getting a college degree can be?"[25]

Lawrence M. Krauss, Origins Project Director at Arizona State University.

Edward Dutton studied findings which indicate that universities which are particularly transitional and prestigious tend to have (in contrast to less transitional universities), tightly differentiated and ‘fundamentalist’ student evangelical groups and higher levels of conversion while at university. He argued that Oxford University students are likely to be not just more intelligent in IQ terms than comparable students but more creative, more original in their thinking and more able to acquire knowledge- factors Dutton found made religious experience more likely in an individual.[26] In 1975, Norman Poythress studied a sample of 234 US college undergraduates, grouping them into relatively homogeneous religious types based on the similarity of their religious beliefs, and compared their personality characteristics. He found that "Literally-oriented religious Believers did not differ significantly from Mythologically-oriented Believers on measures of intelligence, authoritarianism, or racial prejudice. Religious Believers as a group were found to be significantly less intelligent and more authoritarian than religious Skeptics." He used SAT as a measure of intelligence for this study.[27]

A weak negative correlation between education and Christian fundamentalism was found by Burton et al. (1989), a small study comparing the religious beliefs and educational achievements of white, Protestant residents of Delaware County, Indiana. Contrary to the researchers' expectations, fundamentalist converts were not less educated people.[28]

Sociologist Jennifer Glanville has published studies suggesting that church attendance for children correlates with higher GPAs as teenagers. The correlations is a slightly better predictor than both parents having college degrees. Glanville also explains that, "Surprisingly, the importance of religion to teens had very little impact on their educational outcomes... That suggests that the act of attending church – the structure and the social aspects associated with it – could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion." Glanville believes that students who go to church are more likely to have other things that lead to better GPAs, regardless of religious views, including more pro-active adults in their lives and more contact with peers who have similar values.[29]

  See also



  1. ^ a b Neisser, U.; Boodoo, G.; Bouchard Jr, T.J.; Boykin, A.W.; Brody, N.; Ceci, S.J.; Halpern, D.F.; Loehlin, J.C.; Perloff, R.; Sternberg, R.J.; Others, (1998). "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns". Annual Progress in Child Psychiatry and Child Development 1997. ISBN 978-0-87630-870-7. http://books.google.com/?id=gLWnmVbKdLwC&pg=PA95&dq=Intelligence:+Knowns+and+unknowns. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  2. ^ Perloff, R.; Sternberg, R.J.; Urbina, S. (1996). "Intelligence: knowns and unknowns". American Psychologist 51. 
  3. ^ Gardner, Howard. Multiple Intelligences. 
  4. ^ Nyborg, Helmuth (2008-03). "The intelligence–religiosity nexus: A representative study of white adolescent Americans". DOI:10.1016/j.intell.2008.08.003. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4TFV93D-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=db2ee09bae0195cc1ecbd026da77245c. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  5. ^ a b c Lynn, Richard; John Harvey and Helmuth Nyborg. "Average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 nations". Elsevier Inc. DOI:10.1016/j.intell.2008.03.004. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4SD1KNR-1&_user=10&_coverDate=04%2F29%2F2008&_alid=759868596&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_cdi=6546&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_ct=1&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=bdb3ca48b21fdb2959f6f8ce4b6001de. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  6. ^ a b c "Intelligent people 'less likely to believe in God'". telegraph.co.uk
  7. ^ http://www.gallup.com/poll/142727/religiosity-highest-world-poorest-nations.aspx
  8. ^ http://www.gallup.com/poll/116449/Religion-Provides-Emotional-Boost-World-Poor.aspx
  9. ^ Science News (24 February 2010). "Liberals and Atheists Smarter? Intelligent People Have Values Novel in Human Evolutionary History, Study Finds". ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100224132655.htm. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God, by Amitai Shenhav, David G. Rand, and Joshua D. Greene at Harvard University
  11. ^ Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, University of British Columbia (2012, April 26). Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2012/04/120426143856.htm
  12. ^ Eysenck, H.J. (2000). Intelligence: A New Look. ISBN 0-7658-0707-6 
  13. ^ Locke, E.A. (2005). "Why emotional intelligence is an invalid concept". Journal of Organizational Behavior 26 (4): 425–431. DOI:10.1002/job.318. 
  14. ^ Mattiuzzi, P.G. Emotional Intelligence? I'm not feeling it. everydaypsychology.com
  15. ^ Paek, Ellen (2006). "Religiosity and perceived emotional intelligence among Christians". Personality and Individual Differences (International Society for the Study of Individual Differences) 41 (3): 479–490. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2006.01.016. ISSN 0191-8869. 
  16. ^ Tischler, L; Biberman, J., & McKeage, R. (2002). "Linking emotional intelligence, spirituality and workplace performance: Definitions, models and ideas for research". Journal of Managerial Psychology (Emerald Group Publishing Limited) 17 (3): 203. DOI:10.1108/02683940210423114. ISSN 0268-3946. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/10.1108/02683940210423114. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  17. ^ Sacerdote, Bruce; Glaeser, Edward L.. "Education and Religion". Harvard Institute of Economic Research. p. 29. http://www.economics.harvard.edu/pub/hier/2001/HIER1913.pdf. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  18. ^ Norris, Pippa; Ronald Inglehart (2011). Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 267-268. ISBN 978-1-107-64837-1. "The effects of income become insignificant, however, the impact of education actually reverses in the United States: it is the more educated who attend church most frequently. It therefore appears that the typical socioeconomic profile of churchgoing is indeed somewhat distinctive in the United States when compared with other wealthy countries." 
  19. ^ a b Education and occupation profile of attenders, from the National Church Life Survey Research. Accessed 2007-11-02
  20. ^ Kaldor, Peter (1987). Who Goes Where? Who Doesn't Care? : Going to Church in Australia. Sydney: Homebush West: Lancer / ANZEA,. 
  21. ^ Wright, Bradley R.E. (2010). Christians are hate-filled hypocrites-- and other lies you've been told : a sociologist shatters myths from the secular and christian media. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House. pp. 87-88. ISBN 9780764207464. "Nationwide, 27% of all adults have graduated from college. Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and Orthodox Christians have the highest levels of education. Catholics Mormons, and Muslims are at about the national average, and Jehovah's Witnesses have by far the lowest education. Evangelicals are somewhat below the national average. The religiously unaffiliated are just slightly above average in levels of college education. The irony is that some of the religiously explain their rejection of religion in terms of superior learning, but several religious groups have much higher levels of education." 
  22. ^ Kosmin, Barry. "Religion and the Intelligentsia: Post-graduate Educated Americans 1990-2008". http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/publications/religion-and-the-intelligentsia-post-graduate-educated-americans-1990-2008/. "The only sign of greater secularization is more support for the theory of human evolution but there is no evidence of a dominant “atheistic naturalism”. The elite is not a unique population today on most standard measures of religious belonging, belief and behavior. This population as whole is a “people’s elite” with few differences between them and the mass of the public except in terms of status, power and income." and "Little evidence the majority of elite are in the Enlightenment tradition of Jefferson & Franklin. Advanced education in U.S. does not seem to produce much skepticism or critical thinking." 
  23. ^ Smith, Christian; Patricia Snell (2009). Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging adults. Oxford University Press. pp. 248-251. ISBN 9780195371796. "However, something very interesting emerged when scholars took a second look at the question more recently. They found that the religiously undermining effect of higher education on recent generation of youth disappeared. Most of the older research was conducted on baby boomers for whom college did indeed corrode religious faith and practice. But many studies more recently have shown that conventional wisdom about baby boomers does not apply to today's youth. Higher education no longer seem to diminish religion in emerging adults." "In every case, emerging adults are slightly more religious than those who are not in college, although only the differences in overall religiousness and service attendance are statistically significant. In short, if anything, it is not attending college that is associated with lower levels of religious practice, though those differences are slight." 
  24. ^ Stan L. Albrecht, "The Consequential Dimension of Mormon Religiosity" Latter-Day Saint Social Life, Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members, (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1998), 286.
  25. ^ Lawrence M. Krauss (28 February 2012). "Why we need college degrees more than we need faith". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/rick-santorum-says-liberal-education-leads-to-loss-of-faith-atheists-rejoice/2012/02/28/gIQAya3MgR_blog.html. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  26. ^ Dutton, Edward. "Why does Jesus go to Oxford University? Conversion Experience, Creativity and Intelligence". Journal for Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Science,. http://www.jirrs.org/jirrs_nr_6/3-jirrs6-dutton.pdf. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  27. ^ Poythress, Norman (1975). "Literal, Antiliteral, and Mythological Religious Orientations". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (Wiley-Blackwell) 14 (3): 271–284. DOI:10.2307/1384909. ISSN 0021-8294. JSTOR 1384909. 
  28. ^ Ronald Burton; Stephen Johnson; Joseph Tamney, Education and Fundamentalism, Review of Religious Research (1989)[1]
  29. ^ Church Attendance Boosts Student GPAs

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