Unconscious learning underlies belief in God, study suggests

“Belief in a god or gods that intervene on earth to make order is a core part of international religions,” states the study’s senior researcher, Adam Green, an associate professor at the Department of Psychology and Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience at Georgetown, and manager of the Georgetown Laboratory for Relational Cognition.
The aim was to check whether suggested routine learning is a cornerstone of belief and, if so, if that link holds across various faiths and civilizations. The researchers really found that implicit pattern learning seems to supply a key to comprehending an assortment of religions. The U.S. part of the study registered a mostly Christian set of 199 participants in Washington, D.C.. The Afghanistan part of this study enrolled a set of 149 Muslim participants in Kabul. The study’s lead writer was Adam Weinberger, a postdoctoral researcher at Green’s laboratory at Georgetown and in the University of Pennsylvania. Co-authors Zachery Warren and Fathali Moghaddam headed a group of local Afghan investigators who gathered data in Kabul. Warren, who obtained his doctorate at Georgetown and holds a masters of divinity, directs the Asia Foundation’s analysis of Afghan People. “This isn’t a research about if God is present, this can be a research about how and why brains come to think in gods. Our theory is that individuals whose brains are great at discerning patterns in their surroundings can ascribe these patterns to the hands of a higher power,” he adds. People who can intuitively forecast complicated routines, a skill called implicit routine learning, are most likely to carry stronger beliefs that there’s a god that generates patterns of incidents in the world, according to neuroscientists in Georgetown University. “The most fascinating element of this research, for me personally, and for its Afghan research group, was visiting patterns in cognitive attitudes and processes replicated over both of these civilizations,” says Warren. “Afghans and Americans could be more alike than different, at least in some cognitive processes involved with spiritual belief and making significance of the world around us. Regardless of one’s religion, the findings indicate exciting insights into the nature of belief” The analysis utilized a well-established cognitive evaluation to measure suggested routine learning. Participants viewed as a succession of dots appeared and vanished on a monitor screen. They pressed on a button for every dot. The dots moved fast, but a few participants — those with the most powerful implicit learning capability — started to learn routines hidden in the order, and also press the right button to another dot before that scatter really seemed. But, even the very best implicit students didn’t understand the dots shaped patterns, demonstrating that the learning has been occurring at a subconscious level. “A very interesting observation was that which occurred between youth and maturity,” explains Green. The data imply that if kids are picking up on patterns in the environment, their view is more likely to grow as they develop, even if they’re in a nonreligious household. Likewise, if they’re not unconsciously picking up on patterns across them, their view is more likely to diminish as they develop in a spiritual family. “A mind which is prone to emphasise routine learning might tend to believe in a god regardless of where on earth that mind happens to find itself, or even at which spiritual circumstance,” Green adds, even though he warns that additional study is essential.

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