New research indicates that religious believers can be better at perceiving and integrating different perspectives than atheists in Western Europe.
“The main message of the study is that closed-mindedness is not necessarily found only among the religious,” the study’s corresponding author, Filip Uzarevic of the Catholic University of Louvain, told PsyPost.
The research was published April 27, 2017, in the peer-reviewed journal Personality and Individual Differences.
“The idea started through noticing that, in public discourse, despite both the conservative/religious groups and liberal/secular groups showing strong animosity towards the opposite ideological side, somehow it was mostly the former who were often labeled as ‘closed-minded’,” Uzarevic explained. “Moreover, such view of the secular being more tolerant and open seemed to be dominant in the psychological literature. Being interested in this topic, we started to discuss whether this is necessarily and always the case: Are the religious indeed generally more closed-minded, or would it perhaps be worthy of investigating the different aspects of closed-mindedness and their relationship with (non)religion. ”
The researchers found that Christian participants scored higher on a measure of dogmatism than nonreligious participants. The Christian participants, for instance, were more likely to disagree with statements such as “There are so many things we have not discovered yet, nobody should be absolutely certain his beliefs are right.”
But two other measures of closed-mindedness told a different story.
Atheists tended to show greater intolerance of contradiction, meaning when they were presented with two seemingly contradictory statements they rated one as very true and the other as very false. They also showed less propensity to be able to imagine arguments contrary to their own position and find them somewhat convincing.