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Mentalizing Deficits Constrain Belief in a Personal God

Abstract 

Religious believers intuitively conceptualize deities as intentional agents with mental states who anticipate and respond to 
human beliefs, desires and concerns. It follows that mentalizing deficits, associated with the autistic spectrum and also 
commonly found in men more than in women, may undermine this intuitive support and reduce belief in a personal God. 
Autistic adolescents expressed less belief in God than did matched neuro-typical controls (Study 1). In a Canadian student 
sample (Study 2), and two American national samples that controlled for demographic characteristics and other correlates 
of autism and religiosity (Study 3 and 4), the autism spectrum predicted reduced belief in God, and mentalizing mediated 
this relationship. Systemizing (Studies 2 and 3) and two personality dimensions related to religious belief, Conscientiousness 
and Agreeableness (Study 3), failed as mediators. Mentalizing also explained the robust and well-known, but theoretically 
debated, gender gap in religious belief wherein men show reduced religious belief (Studies 2–4). 

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Dr. Kali Trzesniewski,
Jan 29, 2013, 12:37 AM
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