Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Reasoning and Recall in Scientific and Religious Contexts

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Ryan Tweney


This paper focused on differences between science and religion based on McCauley's (2000) proposal that science and religion are cognitively different. The cognitive distinction between science and religion proposed by McCauley parallels a distinction within the dual-process theories of reasoning literature between two information processing systems, Analytic and Intuitive. The present studies explored differences between types of context (religion or science) on processing and recall. Specifically, reasoning and recall were investigated within a science or religion context, hypothesizing that science context would elicit Analytic processing whereas religion context would elicit Intuitive processing. Since individual characteristics were hypothesized to influence type of processing independently of context, they were assessed using a demographic questionnaire, the Religious Orientation Scale-Revised (Gorsuch & McPherson, 1989) and a newly constructed Scientific Attitude Assessment scale. The scales were found to be orthogonal in both studies, and to be parallel to dimensions of individual characteristics, indicating they were appropriate measures for classifying individuals. The results of the recall tasks in Study 1 did not support the hypothesis that context elicits one type of processing over the other. Therefore, a more cognitively demanding reasoning task was used in Study 2 to investigate the same hypotheses. Results of Study 2 supported the hypothesis that context elicits one type of processing over the other. However, the effect of context was in the opposite direction as hypothesized with religion context eliciting more Analytic processing and science context eliciting more Intuitive processing. Several possible reasons for the reversed trend in the results are discussed including story construction, participants' dependence on expert knowledge, and measures of individual differences. Directions for future work are suggested.