Psychology professor Laird Edman spoke at the International Convention of Psychological Science in Amsterdam last week. This was the first conference hosted by the Association of Psychological Science. The theme for this year’s conference was integrative sciences. Edman presented on cognitive processes and religion to more than 2,000 conference attendees.
The research for this project began in 2012 when an article titled “Analytic Thinking Promotes Disbelief” appeared in the Journal of Science. Two psychologists conducted a survey and concluded that the more people think analytically, the less likely people are to believe in God.
Edman, unsure of the research, decided to conduct his own investigation of the topic.
“After we surveyed a greater sample from all parts of the country, we actually got the reverse effect [of the researchers],” Edman said. “We discovered that religious beliefs are more sophisticated, so the more critically a person thought, the more likely they were to believe in God.”
The research findings were presented during the convention held March 12-14 in Amsterdam. Adrienne Forgette, dean of faculty, supported Edman’s research.
“Our professors need to know they are both scholars and teachers,” Forgette said. “By having our professors continue in research like Dr. Edman has, our teachers are becoming better.”
A unique quality in Edman’s research is his inclusion of students. All psychology majors work with him for their own senior thesis projects.
One student, Kristen Lesage [McConnel], had the opportunity to work alongside Edman on his research process.
In addition, the psychology department often helps students integrate their faith with the material students are learning.
“The psychology department is one of the strongest departments on campus in helping students figure out their faith with the curriculum while working alongside world-class experts in this area,” Forgette said.
Edman’s research is important for two reasons: to understand religious behavior worldwide and to again the acknowledgment by most about the existence of God.
“Religious activity is ubiquitous worldwide,” Edman said. “Every civilized nation has some sort of religion, even in those countries that are declared atheist. Children at the age of five begin to create a story in their mind, acknowledging that someone had to create the world. That’s evidence that shows that cognitively, these children acquire this knowledge.”
Although Edman’s presentations were a success, he plans to continue further research this summer at Oxford in England.
While in England Edman will be working with well-known psychologist Allister McGraff and 25 other researchers to help the church design worship to draw new people into Christianity.