It's the heart that matters: The relationships among cognitive mentalizing ability, emotional empathy, and religiosity

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Mentalizing ability, i.e., an ability to attribute mental states to other beings, has been regarded as a chief cognitive predisposition that allows people to believe in supernatural beings. However, research on mentalizing ability and religiosity is inconsistent and tainted with methodological vagueness. Most notably, the terms “mentalizing” and “empathy” have often been used interchangeably, which can mask important distinctions between cognitive and emotional foundations of religious belief. To shed light on the role of these two constructs for religiosity, we conducted two studies (N = 314 and N = 236) examining the relationships among cognitive mentalizing ability, emotional empathy, and religiosity. Results showed that measures precisely assessing mentalizing were either unrelated or negatively related to religiosity. Moreover, we found that the link between mentalizing and belief was strongly influenced by the cognitive style of belief. On the other hand, emotional empathy was robustly and positively associated with religiosity. Finally, we also established that a popular tool commonly used as a measure of mentalizing is related to religiosity due to its emotional components, closely connected with empathy. Altogether, these results cast further doubt on the relationship between mentalizing and belief, but they also point to the significance of empathy as a socio-emotional correlate of religiosity.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ɓowicki, P; Zajenkowski, M; Van Cappellen, P

Published Date

  • July 15, 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 161 /

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0191-8869

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.paid.2020.109976

Citation Source

  • Scopus