If You Answer This Math Problem Correctly, You May Be an Atheist

If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

Go ahead.

Do the problem.


The wrong answer — the one you come up with when you don’t put any thought into it or simply go with your gut — would be $10.

The right answer — which requires a bit of analysis — would be $5. (The bat costs $105.)

***Update***: Here’s another question that was asked:

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 it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? (Correct answer: 47 days. Wrong-but-tempting answer: 24 days.)

But your answer may say more about you than just your math abilities:

Psychologists William Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, predicted that people who were more analytic in thinking would tend not to believe in religion, whereas people who approach problems more intuitively would tend to be believers. Their study confirmed the hypothesis and the findings illuminate the mysterious cognitive process by which we reach decisions about our beliefs.

Their study of 179 Canadian undergraduate students showed that people who tend to solve problems more analytically also tended to be religious disbelievers. This was demonstrated by giving the students a series of questions like the one above and then scoring them on the basis of whether they used intuition or analytic logic to reach the answers. Afterward, the researchers surveyed the students on whether or not they held religious beliefs. The results showed that the intuitive thinkers were much more likely to believe in religion.

That’s correlation, but the study also showed causation:

To test for a causal relationship between analytical thinking and religious disbelief, the researchers devised four different ways to promote analytic thinking and then surveyed the students to see if their religious disbelief had increased by the interventions that boosted critical thinking.

… Subconscious suggestion about thinking apparently gets the cognitive juices flowing and suppresses intuitive processes. The researchers confirmed this effect but also found that the self-reported religious disbelief also increased compared with subjects shown a different image before being tested that did not suggest critical thinking.

Alright, have fun analyzing the heck out of that.

You can check out the full paper here, if you have access to Science or know a good workaround.

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