Override the controversy: Analytic thinking predicts endorsement of evolution

Cognition. 2015 Sep;142:312-21. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.05.011. Epub 2015 Jun 10.


Despite overwhelming scientific consensus, popular opinions regarding evolution are starkly divided. In the USA, for example, nearly one in three adults espouse a literal and recent divine creation account of human origins. Plausibly, resistance to scientific conclusions regarding the origins of species-like much resistance to other scientific conclusions (Bloom & Weisberg, 2007)-gains support from reliably developing intuitions. Intuitions about essentialism, teleology, agency, and order may combine to make creationism potentially more cognitively attractive than evolutionary concepts. However, dual process approaches to cognition recognize that people can often analytically override their intuitions. Two large studies (total N=1324) found consistent evidence that a tendency to engage analytic thinking predicted endorsement of evolution, even controlling for relevant demographic, attitudinal, and religious variables. Meanwhile, exposure to religion predicted reduced endorsement of evolution. Cognitive style is one factor among many affecting opinions on the origin of species.

Keywords: Cognitive style; Creationism; Dual process theories; Evolution; Supernatural beliefs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Religion
  • Thinking*
  • Young Adult