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Core intuitions about persons co-exist and interfere with acquired Christian beliefs about God

  • Author(s): Barlev, Michael
  • Advisor(s): German, Tamsin
  • et al.

In three experiments, using a novel sentence verification paradigm, we tested the hypothesis that acquired Christian beliefs about God which are inconsistent with core intuitions about persons co-exist with, rather than replace, those intuitions in the minds of religious believers. Participants were asked to evaluate a series of statements for which core intuitions and acquired religious beliefs were consistent (i.e. true according to both [e.g. “God has beliefs that are true”] or false according to both [e.g. “all beliefs God has are false”]) or inconsistent (i.e. true on intuition but false theologically [e.g. “God has beliefs that are false”] or false on intuition but true theologically [e.g. “all beliefs God has are true”]). Participants (1) were less accurate and took longer to respond to the inconsistent statements, suggesting that core intuitions both co-exist alongside and interfere with acquired religious beliefs (Experiments 1 and 2), (2) were disproportionately more likely to make errors on the inconsistent statements when responding under time pressure than when responding with no time pressure, suggesting that the resolution of conflicts between inconsistent co-existing beliefs requires cognitive resources (Experiment 2). Experiment 3 ruled-out a plausible alternative interpretation of these results.

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