Brain damage is a cause of religious fundamentalism: study
Traits like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness are affected in people who suffer from lesions in this part of the brain. âReligious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and supposedly real entities. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or as new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are generally not updated in response to new scientific evidence or explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism, âa report of these findings said on theâ Raw Story âwebsite. .
Explaining the assault associated with fundamentalism, journalist Bobby Azarian, PhD in neuroscience, writes: âFundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or calls into question their beliefs or way of life. Because of this, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.
The Neuropsychologia article was written based on research conducted by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University. He used data from Vietnam War veterans, a number of whom had brain damage suspected of playing a critical role in functions related to religious fundamentalism. âThe CT scans were analyzed by comparing 119 vets with traumatic brain injuries to 30 healthy vets without damage, and a survey assessing religious fundamentalism was administered. While the majority of the participants were Christians of some sort, 32.5% did not specify a particular religion, âRaw Story said.
“Cognitive flexibility” refers to the ability to move from one concept to another and think about several things simultaneously. It is a crucial skill to adapt to new environments. Brain imaging research has shown that a major neuronal region associated with cognitive flexibility is the prefrontal cortex. The researchers examined patients with lesions in this area and looked for correlations between damage in these areas and responses to religious fundamentalism, by administering a questionnaire.
The results were as expected, and the damage was shown to correspond to religious fundamentalism. Openness was measured using a widely used personality survey known as the NEO Personality Inventory.
Research suggests that extreme religious indoctrination interferes with the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions. However, the authors say that in addition to brain damage, genetic predispositions and social influences also need to be investigated.