Category Archives: Priming processes

A paper showing a link between belief in gods and intolerance of strangers (outside your own group). LESS belief in gods equals MORE tolerant behavior towards strangers (immigrants).

By directing magnetic force – so-called TMS, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation – towards the posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) of the brain, scientists from the University of York have found a relatively strong link between religious faith and intolerance. Anyone surprised?

The targeted region of the brain is associated with detecting and solving problems that threaten the individual’s security. The threat in this study was being reminded of death and mortality. Thinking of death and mortality normally lead to stronger beliefs in divine beings and afterlife.

But after the targeted brain region – pMFC – was temporarily shut down, the subjects were instead less inclined to reach for comforting religious ideas. In fact, they reported 32.8 per cent less belief in God, angels, or heaven after having their pMFC turned down! And at the same time they were also 28.5 per cent more positive in their feelings towards an immigrant who before the TMS treatment had criticised and derogated their native country.

The explanation? People often turn to ideology when they are confronted by problems. That is, they embrace – by trial and error learning and/or priming – a system of ideas and ideals, and this system then becomes their primary tool to reduce the fear factor (anxiety)  in their lives. Individuals of the same group (community) often learn from each other how to handle what causes fear and/or anxiety (in this case initiated by worry of death/mortality).

So belief in divine beings – as well as intolerance towards strangers threatening the harmony witihin a group of people – can be seen as a spin-off effect from ordinary problem solving. 

Read more about this interesting experiment here: http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/09/03/scan.nsv107.abstract (or here: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0kj9w0km#page-1 ).

Finally the abstract:


People cleave to ideological convictions with greater intensity in the aftermath of threat.
The posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC) plays a key role in both detecting discrepancies between desired and current conditions and adjusting subsequent behavior to resolve such conflicts.Building on prior literature examining the role of the pMFC in shifts in relatively low-level decision processes, we demonstrate that the pMFC mediates adjustments in adherence to political and religious ideologies.

We presented participants with a reminder of death and a critique of their in-group ostensibly written by a member of an out-group, then experimentally decreased both avowed belief in God and out-group derogation by down-regulating pMFC activity via transcranial magnetic stimulation.

The results provide the first evidence that group prejudice and religious belief are susceptible to targeted neuromodulation, and point to a shared cognitive mechanism underlying concrete and abstract decision processes.

We discuss the implications of these findings for further research characterizing the cognitive and affective mechanisms at play.

1 Comment

Filed under Atheism, Brain, Delusions, Evolution, Gods, Mind, Neuroscience, Personality Tests, Philosophy, Priming processes, Psychiatry, Psychology, Religion, Soul

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

The existence of a Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is often denied by true believers and others who support religious beliefs and think that religious faith is good for humanity.

But the RTS is, indeed, for real. Many tears have been shed because of that sort of traumas.

So, please, read Valerie Tarico’s take on this important topic very carefully.

Also read Marlene Winell’s take (in three parts) on that same subject on the Ex-Christian blog:

Part 1 = http://new.exchristian.net/2011/06/religious-trauma-syndrome-its-time-to.html .

Part 2 = http://new.exchristian.net/2011/07/understanding-religious-trauma-syndrome.html .

Part 3 = http://new.exchristian.net/2011/11/trauma-from-leaving-religion.html

It’s not going to extremes calling religion a poisonous method that obstructs and complicates people’s endeavours to find a high quality of life. It also hinders you from becoming a really “free” thinker, one who is allowed to study any books s/he likes.

Many philosophers, politicians and scientists have expressed their gloomy ideas of religion and its future.

For example, Karl Marx said: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.

Frederick II once said: “Religion is the idol of the mob; it adores everything it does not understand”.

Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich”.

Friedrich Nietzsche said. “In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point”.

He also said: “The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad”.

Albert Einstein (who didn’t believe in any personal God of the Abrahamic kind) said. Science without religion is lame, [but] religion without science is [also] blind.
At the same time he also said: “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity”.

If Albert Einstein had been alive today, I think he would have stated: Things about religion seemingly have to become worse before they at last can be transformed to a non-poisonous life philosophy. There is still a very long way to go for today’s religions all around the world.

BTW, talking of promoting science and reason, have a look at this blog post: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/about-thinking/201510/what-can-we-learn-ben-carsons-brain .

From that blog post we learn that, unfortunately,neither intelligence nor (high) education is able to promote ‘good thinking’.

And finally, my own take on this:

Religious cults are nowadays mostly confined to having to rely on ‘God of the Gaps’ arguments. The primary goal for today’s cult leaders has become to try to convince their ignorant and incredulous followers that science is, always, wrong, meaning that it’s, also always, better to believe in what holy scriptures like the Bible and Koran say is the truth. That strategy is also known as intellectual dishonesty.

AwayPoint

Religious Trauma Syndrome- AnguishAt age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.

But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help…

View original post 2,655 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Atheism, Blogs I follow, Christianity, Cognitive flaws, Debate, Delusions, Gods, Islam, Jesus, Judaism, Philosophy, Priming processes, Psychiatry, Psychology, Religion, Science vs. pseudoscience, Soul, Theological bullshit, Woo, Woo-Personality

Magical thinking springs up everywhere, and language is its accomplice. How language can and does deceive us.  

The human language came into existence with the help of the more primitive intuitive information processing system in our brains, the one that is specialized in, and focused on, magical and religious (bullshit) thinking. For details, see this blog post, https://bbnewsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/the-two-information-processing-systems-ipss-in-your-brain-one-is-woo-ish-the-other-is-rational/ ; and read this Wikipedia article,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking .

Magical thinking springs up everywhere. The phenomenon is in a way related to pareidoiia, our tendency to see human faces in patterns created by mould fungi or tree stumps, (see: http://www.livescience.com/25448-pareidolia.html ).

Emotional stress and events of personal significance push us strongly toward magical meaning-making.

Another important factor is time – or rather lack of time.

The IPS #1 is much faster than the rational and logical IPS #2 system. So if you are in a lack of time – i.e. when you have to make a quick decision – you tend to prefer teleological conclusions instead of more critical and questioning ones. If you can’t detect any visible cause, your IPS #1 has no problem inventing HCAs, Hidden Causal Agents. Cf. the invention of imaginary playmates in childhood or the creation of more or less omnipotent and omniscient divine beings in adulthood.

Our language is strongly influenced by the supposed – or at least presupposed – existence of HCAs. We use verbs that dupe us to think teleologically.

Let’s think of, for example, the verb “create”. Here are some synonyms: breed, bring about, build, cause, construct, contribute to, design, develop, engender, establish, fabricate, form, foster, generate, give rise to, initiate, launch, lead to, make, produce, promote, result in, set up, shape, sow the seeds of – need I mention any more?

Questions starting with a HOW, a WHAT or, above all, a WHY likewise prime your brain to think teleologically.

And, my third and last example, think of word constructions like “(in order) to”, meaning “used as a means of achieving a specified end/goal”.

If you don’t see my point by now, you must be blind on both eyes. 🙂 .

So no wonder we are ALL primed to think teleologically.

You can test yourself by pondering this simple sentence: “The sun is shining today and I feel warm.”

This sentence implies that the sun has – or at least may have – the intention, the purpose, to make me feel warm.

From there the next step can easily be to begin thinking of somewhat – or someone – that can explain WHY I feel a warming effect of the sunshine. For example a  divine being caring for me.

That’s the story behind Hidden Causal Agents that are created by your mind, with the help of magical and religious IPS #1 in your brain.

After this rather long introduction it’s time to recommend my readers to have a look at this interesting analysis, a blog post written by one of the bloggers I follow regularly, Tom Rees:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/epiphenom/2015/10/a-world-by-design-even-atheists-intuitively-think-the-natural-world-has-a-designer.html .

Here is a quote from his article:

Research over the past few years has shown that many people intuitively think that things in the natural world exist for some ulterior purpose – almost as if they had been designed that way. We have a tendency to agree with statements such as ‘water condenses to moisten the air’, or ‘the sun shines in order to keep us warm’.

And finally, here are the conclusions of the study that Tom Rees is referring to:

[1] These data strongly support the idea that humans have a natural tendency to see the natural world as having a designer.

[2] Even more strikingly, they suggest that atheists are not naturally immune to these intuitions. Rather, they  teach themselves to actively overcome them!

I myself would like to add: And true believers teach themselves – on their own or by the help of a pastor – to actively prime their minds that there must be a Creator and a first cause of everything that happens.

3 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Blogs I follow, Brain, Cognitive flaws, Delusions, Evolution, Gods, Mind, Neuroscience, Priming processes, Religion, Woo, Woo-Personality