Cognitive Style and Religious Attitudes Project: An Introduction

Holistic AnalyticalIn 2010, Joe Henrich and several of his colleagues at the University of British Columbia made a fascinating discovery: people in the industrialized world are weird. That is, WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. Compared with the rest of the world, inhabitants of North American and European societies (including Australia and New Zealand) were much more analytical, as opposed to holistic, in their cognitive styles. This means, for example, that an American or European looking at a painting would be more likely to see a number of discrete, isolated elements: a tree here, a figure there. Meanwhile, people from other parts of the world would be more likely to see a complete whole: a landscape, within which was contained various elements. The Cognitive Style and Religious Attitudes project is an initiative by IBCSR to study the relationship between such cognitive orientations and religious belief – a relationship that may get at the heart of contemporary ideological polarization and religion-science tension.