Workshop 2017 (2 of 3) | Ara Norenzayan | A Tale of Intertwining Spectrums: Is There a Link Between Autistic Tendencies and Disbelief in Gods?
Are non-clinical populations high on the autistic spectrum less likely to "get" religion? Building on the first talk, I ask whether autism increases the odds of disbelief, as has been predicted by some cognitive theories of religious belief. Probing further, I ask whether this link is statistically explained by the selective deficits in theory of mind associated with the autistic spectrum. Next I explore whether gender differences in autism and theory of mind offer a novel, if partial, explanation for the well-documented gender gap in religious belief. Further, I present new research on links between the schizotypal spectrum in non-clinical populations – a cluster of traits partly characterized by a hyperactive theory of mind – and hyper-religiosity. This link in turn may offer insights into the psychological profile of the "spiritual but not religious" phenomenon.