Do Social Constraints Inhibit Analytical Atheism? Cognitive Style and Religiosity in Turkey

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 Boston University, Center for Mind and Culture, MA, USA
  • 2 Istanbul University, İstanbul Üniversitesi, Edebiyat Fakültesi, Fatih, Turkey
  • 3 Center for Mind and Culture, Boston, MA, USA

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Abstract

Recent studies claim that having an analytical cognitive style is correlated with reduced religiosity in western populations. However, in cultural contexts where social norms constrain behavior, such cognitive characteristics may have reduced influence on behaviors and beliefs. We labeled this the ‘constraining environments hypothesis.’ In a sample of 246 Muslims in Turkey, the hypothesis was supported for gender. Females face social pressure to be religious. Unlike their male counterparts, they were more religious, less analytical, and their analytical scores were uncorrelated with religiosity. We had predicted an analogous effect for the comparison between monolingual and bilingual students, since English-proficient students are exposed to a wider social environment. The bilingual students were less religious than the monolingual students, yet they were also less analytical. Thus, being analytical was not the path to lower religiosity for the bilingual students. Cognitive styles need to be studied along with social norms in a variety of cultures, to understand religion-cognition relationships.

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