Seeking Evidence and Explanation Signals Religious and Scientific Commitments



Who is more committed to science: the person who learns about a scientific consensus and doesn’t ask questions, or the person who learns about a scientific consensus and decides to pursue further inquiry? Who exhibits greater commitment to religious teachings: the person who accepts doctrine without question, or the person who seeks further evidence and explanations? Across three experiments (N = 801) we investigate the inferences drawn about an individual on the basis of their epistemic behavior – in particular, their decision to pursue or forgo further inquiry (evidence or explanation) about scientific or religious claims. We find that the decision to pursue further inquiry (about science or religion) is taken to signal greater commitment to science and to truth, as well as trustworthiness and good moral character (Studies 1-3). This is true even in the case of claims regarding controversial science topics, such as anthropogenic climate change (Study 3). In contrast, the decision to forgo further inquiry is taken to signal greater commitment to religion, but only when the claim under consideration contains religious content (Study 1-3). These findings shed light on perceived scientific and religious norms in our predominantly American and Christian sample, as well as the rich social inferences drawn on the basis of epistemic behavior.

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