From John Ray's shorter notes

3 March, 2013

People who are less reflective are more religious?

I would have thought that religious people reflect on things all the time but Hey Ho, Nonny O

Following is the "Cognitive Reflection Test", a set of riddles. Maybe you might like to try answering the questions yourself.

* A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

* If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long does it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

* In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would ittake for the patch to cover half of the lake?

* Correct Answers: Five cents, five minutes, and forty-seven days.

Most people get the "wrong" answers. That is the point of the test. It is claimed that people who get the answers right, however, have a general tendency towards "reflective" thinking. The source article for the test is here.

But as the authors acknowledge, it is basically a measure of mathematical IQ, though a particular subset of it. So therefore any correlations with it could be explained as the outcome of general mathematics ability as well as a particular subset of mathematics ability.

But when Huffpo notes that religious people do poorly on the test, they make large inferences from that, claiming that religious people are not critical thinkers. Unbelievers, on the other hand are "reflective".

As I have always struggled with mathematics but am as atheist as you can get, I found that rather amusing. So I looked up the research on which Huffpo hung its hat. There was only one study that gave the correlation between religion and test score while also controlling for general IQ. It is here.

And it sure is amusing. Even BEFORE controlling for IQ, the correlation between test score and belief in God was .14, which is of only marginal statistical significance (significant on a one-tailed test only despite N=large) and of negligible significance in any other sense. And controlling for IQ reduced the "relationship" even further, of course.

So, to put it plainly, it is all hokum. Religious people are about as likely to get the questions right as are atheists. Hey Ho, Nonny O indeed. I could make other criticisms of the research concerned (sampling etc.) but I can see no point in flogging a dead horse.

Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of longer writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs