Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 157–190 | Cite as

What Makes You So Sure? Dogmatism, Fundamentalism, Analytic Thinking, Perspective Taking and Moral Concern in the Religious and Nonreligious

  • Jared Parker FriedmanEmail author
  • Anthony Ian Jack
Original Paper


Better understanding the psychological factors related to certainty in one’s beliefs (i.e., dogmatism) has important consequences for both individuals and social groups. Generally, beliefs can find support from at least two different routes of information processing: social/moral considerations or analytic/empirical reasoning. Here, we investigate how these two psychological constructs relate to dogmatism in two groups of individuals who preferentially draw on the former or latter sort of information when forming beliefs about the world—religious and nonreligious individuals. Across two studies and their pooled analysis, we provide evidence that although dogmatism is negatively related to analytic reasoning in both groups of individuals, it shares a divergent relationship with measures of moral concern depending on whether one identifies as religious or not. Study 1 showed that increasing levels of dogmatism were positively related to prosocial intentions among the religious and negatively related to empathic concern among the nonreligious. Study 2 replicated and extended these results by showing that perspective taking is negatively related to dogmatism in both groups, an effect which is particularly robust among the nonreligious. Study 2 also showed that religious fundamentalism was positively related to measures of moral concern among the religious. Because the current studies used a content-neutral measure to assess dogmatic certainty in one’s beliefs, they have the potential to inform practices for most effectively communicating with and persuading religious and nonreligious individuals to change maladaptive behavior, even when the mode of discourse is unrelated to religious belief.


Religion Dogmatism Moral concern Perspective taking Default mode network (DMN) Task-positive network (TPN) 



We would like to thank Gordon Pennycook and one anonymous reviewer for helpful suggestions throughout the revision process.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Both the authors declare no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Participants

All studies were approved by Case Western Reserve University’s Institutional Review Board. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Altemeyer, B. (1996). The authoritarian specter. Massachusetts: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (2004). Research: A revised religious fundamentalism scale: The short and sweet of it. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 14(1), 47–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anticevic, A., Cole, M. W., Murray, J. D., Corlett, P. R., Wang, X. J., & Krystal, J. H. (2012). The role of default network deactivation in cognition and disease. Trends in Cognitive Science, 16(12), 584–592. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2012. pii.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bartra, O., McGuire, J. T., & Kable, J. W. (2013). The valuation system: a coordinate-based meta-analysis of BOLD fMRI experiments examining neural correlates of subjective value. Neuroimage, 76, 412–427.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blair, R. J. R. (2005). Responding to the emotions of others: dissociating forms of empathy through the study of typical and psychiatric populations. Consciousness and Cognition, 14(4), 698–718.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blogowska, J., & Saroglou, V. (2011). Religious fundamentalism and limited prosociality as a function of the target. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(1), 44–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bressler, S. L., & Menon, V. (2010). Large-scale brain networks in cognition: Emerging methods and principles. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(6), 277–290. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.04.004.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bzdok, D., Schilbach, L., Vogeley, K., Schneider, K., Laird, A. R., Langner, R., et al. (2012). Parsing the neural correlates of moral cognition: ALE meta-analysis on morality, theory of mind, and empathy. Brain Structure and Function, 217(4), 783–796. doi: 10.1007/s00429-012-0380-y.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Caldwell-Harris, C. L., Wilson, A. L., LoTempio, E., & Beit-Hallahmi, B. (2011). Exploring the atheist personality: Well-being, awe, and magical thinking in atheists, Buddhists, and Christians. Mental Health Religion and Culture, 14(7), 659–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cooperman, A., Smith, G., A., Mohamed, B., & Schiller, A. (2014). Religion in everyday life: Highly religious Americans are happier and more involved with family but are no more likely to exercise, recycle or make socially conscious consumer choices. Retrieved from
  11. Coutinho, M. V., Redford, J. S., Church, B. A., Zakrzewski, A. C., Couchman, J. J., & Smith, J. D. (2015). The interplay between uncertainty monitoring and working memory: Can metacognition become automatic? Memory and Cognition, 43(7), 990–1006.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crescentini, C., Di Bucchianico, M., Fabbro, F., & Urgesi, C. (2015). Excitatory stimulation of the right inferior parietal cortex lessens implicit religiousness/spirituality. Neuropsychologia, 70, 71–79.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crowson, H. M., DeBacker, T. K., & Davis, K. A. (2008). The DOG SCale: A valid measure of dogmatism? Journal of Individual Differences, 29(1), 17–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis, M. H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44(1), 113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dubendorff, S. J., & Luchner, A. F. (2015). The Perception of atheists as narcissistic. Rollins College Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Program, 2015 Annual Report, 106.Google Scholar
  16. Duncan, J., & Owen, A. M. (2000). Common regions of the human frontal lobe recruited by diverse cognitive demands. Trends in Neuroscience, 23(10), 475–483. doi: 10.1016/S0166-2236(00)01633-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Evans, J. S. B., & Stanovich, K. E. (2013). Dual-process theories of higher cognition advancing the debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(3), 223–241.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Falk, E. B., Berkman, E. T., Whalen, D., & Lieberman, M. D. (2011). Neural activity during health messaging predicts reductions in smoking above and beyond self-report. Health Psychology, 30(2), 177.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance (Vol. 2). California: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Fox, M. D., Snyder, A. Z., Vincent, J. L., Corbetta, M., Van Essen, D. C., & Raichle, M. E. (2005). The human brain is intrinsically organized into dynamic, anticorrelated functional networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(27), 9673–9678. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0504136102.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frederick, S. (2005). Cognitive reflection and decision making. Journal of Economic perspectives, 19(4), 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Friedman, J. P., & Jack, A. I. (accepted). Mapping cognitive structure onto the landscape of philosophical debate: An empirical framework with relevance to problems of consciousness, free will and ethics. Review of Philosophy and Psychology.Google Scholar
  23. Friedman, J., Jack, A. I., Rochford, K., & Boyatzis, R. (2015). Antagonistic neural networks underlying organizational behavior. In D. A. Waldman & P. A. Balthazard (Eds.), Organizational neuroscience (monographs in leadership and management) (Vol 7, pp. 115–141). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  24. Galen, L. W., Smith, C. M., Knapp, N., & Wyngarden, N. (2011). Perceptions of religious and nonreligious targets: Exploring the effects of perceivers’ religious fundamentalism. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41(9), 2123–2143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gervais, W. M. (2015). Override the controversy: Analytic thinking predicts endorsement of evolution. Cognition, 142, 312–321.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gervais, W. M., & Norenzayan, A. (2012). Analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief. Science, 336(6080), 493–496. doi: 10.1126/science.1215647.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goel, V. (2007). Anatomy of deductive reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(10), 435–441. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2007.09.003.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hall, D. L., Matz, D. C., & Wood, W. (2010). Why don’t we practice what we preach? A meta-analytic review of religious racism. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 126–139.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harris, S. (2014). Waking up: A guide to spirituality without religion. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  30. Harris, S., Kaplan, J. T., Curiel, A., Bookheimer, S. Y., Iacoboni, M., & Cohen, M. S. (2009). The neural correlates of religious and nonreligious belief. PLoS ONE, 4(10), e0007272.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Harris, S., Sheth, S. A., & Cohen, M. S. (2008). Functional neuroimaging of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty. Annals of Neurology, 63(2), 141–147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hunsberger, B. E., & Altemeyer, B. (2006). Atheists: A groundbreaking study of America’s nonbelievers. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  33. Jack, A. I. (2013). A scientific case for conceptual dualism: The problem of consciousness and the opposing domains hypothesis. In J. Knobe, T. Lombrozo, & S. Nichols (Eds.), Oxford studies in experimental philosophy (Vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Jack, A. I., Dawson, A. J., Begany, K. L., Leckie, R. L., Barry, K. P., Ciccia, A. H., et al. (2012). fMRI reveals reciprocal inhibition between social and physical cognitive domains. Neuroimage, 66C, 385–401. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.10.061.Google Scholar
  35. Jack, A. I., Friedman, J. P., Boyatzis, R. E., & Taylor, S. N. (2016). Why do you believe in God? Relationships between religious belief, analytic thinking, mentalizing and moral concern. PLoS ONE, 11(3), e0149989.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jack, A. I., Robbins, P., Friedman, J. P., & Meyers, C. D. (2014). More than a feeling: counterintuitive effects of compassion on moral judgment. Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Mind, 125): Continuum.Google Scholar
  37. Johnson, K. A., Li, Y. J., Cohen, A. B., & Okun, M. A. (2013). Friends in high places: The influence of authoritarian and benevolent god-concepts on social attitudes and behaviors. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5(1), 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  39. Keller, J., & Pfattheicher, S. (2013). The compassion-hostility paradox the interplay of vigilant, prevention-focused self-regulation, compassion, and hostility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(11), 1518–1529.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Koenigs, M., Kruepke, M., Zeier, J., & Newman, J. P. (2012). Utilitarian moral judgment in psychopathy. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7(6), 708–714. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsr048.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Koenigs, M., Young, L., Adolphs, R., Tranel, D., Cushman, F., Hauser, M., et al. (2007). Damage to the prefrontal cortex increases utilitarian moral judgements. Nature, 446(7138), 908–911. doi: 10.1038/nature05631.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Krueger, F., Spampinato, M. V., Pardini, M., Pajevic, S., Wood, J. N., Weiss, G. H., et al. (2008). Integral calculus problem solving: an fMRI investigation. NeuroReport, 19(11), 1095–1099. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328303fd85.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Leyens, J. P., Demoulin, S., Vaes, J., Gaunt, R., & Paladino, M. P. (2007). Infra-humanization: The wall of group differences. Social Issues and Policy Review, 1(1), 139–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lindquist, K. A., Wager, T. D., Kober, H., Bliss-Moreau, E., & Barrett, L. F. (2012). The brain basis of emotion: A meta-analytic review. Behavioral Brain Sciences, 35(3), 121–143. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X11000446.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Liu, C.-C. (2010). The relationship between personal religious orientation and emotional intelligence. Social Behavior and Personality: An international Journal, 38(4), 461–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lockwood, P. L., Bird, G., Bridge, M., & Viding, E. (2013). Dissecting empathy: high levels of psychopathic and autistic traits are characterized by difficulties in different social information processing domains. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, 760.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Łowicki, P., & Zajenkowski, M. (2016). Divine emotions: On the link between emotional intelligence and religious belief. Journal of Religion and Health. doi: 10.1007/s10943-016-0335-3.PubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  48. Mars, R. B., Neubert, F. X., Noonan, M. P., Sallet, J., Toni, I., & Rushworth, M. F. (2012). On the relationship between the “default mode network” and the “social brain”. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 189. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00189.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Marstaller, L., Burianová, H., & Reutens, D. C. (2016). Adaptive contextualization: A new role for the default mode network in affective learning. Human Brain Mapping, 38(2), 1082–1091.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Meyer, M. L., Taylor, S. E., & Lieberman, M. D. (2015). Social working memory and its distinctive link to social cognitive ability: An fMRI study. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(10), 1338–1347.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morelli, S. A., Rameson, L. T., & Lieberman, M. D. (2014). The neural components of empathy: Predicting daily prosocial behavior. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(1), 39–47.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Norenzayan, A., Gervais, W. M., & Trzesniewski, K. H. (2012). Mentalizing deficits constrain belief in a personal God. PLoS ONE, 7(5), e36880. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036880.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pavey, L., Greitemeyer, T., & Sparks, P. (2011). Highlighting relatedness promotes prosocial motives and behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(7), 905–917. doi: 10.1177/0146167211405994.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pennycook, G., Cheyne, J. A., Seli, P., Koehler, D. J., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2012). Analytic cognitive style predicts religious and paranormal belief. Cognition, 123(3), 335–346.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pennycook, G., Ross, R. M., Koehler, D. J., & Fugelsang, J. A. (2016). Atheists and agnostics are more reflective than religious believers: Four empirical studies and a meta-analysis. PLoS ONE, 11(4), e0153039.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Phelps, E. A., Delgado, M. R., Nearing, K. I., & LeDoux, J. E. (2004). Extinction learning in humans: Role of the amygdala and vmPFC. Neuron, 43(6), 897–905.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rameson, L. T., Morelli, S. A., & Lieberman, M. D. (2012). The neural correlates of empathy: Experience, automaticity, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(1), 235–245.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rawls, J. (2009). A theory of justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Robbins, P., & Jack, A. I. (2006). The phenomenal stance. Philosophical Studies, 127(1), 59–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rounding, K., Lee, A., Jacobson, J. A., & Ji, L.-J. (2012). Religion replenishes self-control. Psychological Science, 23(6), 635–642.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Roy, M., Shohamy, D., & Wager, T. D. (2012). Ventromedial prefrontal-subcortical systems and the generation of affective meaning. Trends in cognitive sciences, 16(3), 147–156.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Saroglou, V., Pichon, I., Trompette, L., Verschueren, M., & Dernelle, R. (2005). Prosocial behavior and religion: New evidence based on projective measures and peer ratings. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44(3), 323–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Saslow, L. R., Willer, R., Feinberg, M., Piff, P. K., Clark, K., Keltner, D., et al. (2013). My brother’s keeper? Compassion predicts generosity more among less religious individuals. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(1), 31–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schilbach, L., Eickhoff, S., Rotarskajagiela, A., Fink, G., & Vogeley, K. (2008). Minds at rest? Social cognition as the default mode of cognizing and its putative relationship to the “default system” of the brain. Consciousness and Cognition, 17(2), 457–467. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2008.03.013.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schjoedt, U., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Geertz, A. W., Lund, T. E., & Roepstorff, A. (2010). The power of charisma—perceived charisma inhibits the frontal executive network of believers in intercessory prayer. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(1), 119–127.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schjoedt, U., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Geertz, A. W., & Roepstorff, A. (2009). Highly religious participants recruit areas of social cognition in personal prayer. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 4(2), 199–207.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Shenhav, A., Rand, D. G., & Greene, J. D. (2012). Divine intuition: cognitive style influences belief in God. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shulman, G. L., Fiez, J. A., Corbetta, M., Buckner, R. L., Miezin, F. M., Raichle, M. E., et al. (1997). Common blood flow changes across visual tasks: II. Decreases in cerebral cortex. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 9(5), 648–663. doi: 10.1162/jocn.1997.9.5.648.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Smith, H., & Marranca, R. (2009). The world’s religions. New York: HarperOne.Google Scholar
  70. Spreng, R. N., Mar, R. A., & Kim, A. S. (2009). The common neural basis of autobiographical memory, prospection, navigation, theory of mind, and the default mode: a quantitative meta-analysis. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21(3), 489–510. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.21029.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Stupple, E. J., Gale, M., & Richmond, C. (2013). Working memory, cognitive miserliness and logic as predictors of performance on the cognitive reflection test. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 35th annual conference of the cognitive science society.Google Scholar
  72. Tarrant, M., Dazeley, S., & Cottom, T. (2009). Social categorization and empathy for outgroup members. British Journal of Social Psychology, 48(3), 427–446.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tavris, C., & Aronson, E. (2008). Mistakes were made (but not by me): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
  74. Tompson, S., Lieberman, M. D., & Falk, E. B. (2015). Grounding the neuroscience of behavior change in the sociocultural context. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 5, 58–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Toplak, M. E., West, R. F., & Stanovich, K. E. (2011). The cognitive reflection test as a predictor of performance on heuristics-and-biases tasks. Memory and Cognition, 39(7), 1275–1289.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. van Elk, M., & Aleman, A. (2016). Brain mechanisms in religion and spirituality: An integrative predictive processing framework. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 73, 359–378.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Van Overwalle, F. (2011). A dissociation between social mentalizing and general reasoning. Neuroimage, 54(2), 1589–1599.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Vezich, S., Falk, E., & Lieberman, M. (2015). Persuasion neuroscience: New potential to test dual process theories. In E. Harmon-Jones & M. Inzlicht (Eds.), Social Neuroscience: Biological approaches to social Psychology. New York: Psychological Press.Google Scholar
  79. Wang, L., Zhong, C.-B., & Murnighan, J. K. (2014). The social and ethical consequences of a calculative mindset. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 125(1), 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zhong, C.-B. (2011). The ethical dangers of deliberative decision making. Administrative Science Quarterly, 56(1), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jared Parker Friedman
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Anthony Ian Jack
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, College of Arts and SciencesCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  2. 2.Inamori International Center for Ethics and ExcellenceCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of ManagementCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, College of Arts and SciencesCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  5. 5.Department of Neurology, Medical SchoolCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  6. 6.Department of Neurosciences, Medical SchoolCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

Personalised recommendations