Chris Mooney writes today about research from Ara Norenzayan that isolates some of the cognitive traits that seem to be associated with atheists:
Less "mentalizing." One of the most surprising scientific findings of the research on the causes of religiosity (or the lack thereof) involves a trait called "mentalizing."....On a social level, mentalizing helps you connect with and relate to others....As for atheists? Norenzayan's research suggests they tend toward less mentalizing, which makes religious beliefs less intuitive to them.
....Analytical thinking style. In addition to mentalizing, a number of other basic cognitive traits have also been shown to promote religiosity. One very important one is having an intuitive style of thinking, as opposed to an analytic, contemplative style that favors in-depth, effortful thought.
Well, he sure has me pegged. A third (non-cognitive) trait that Norenzayan thinks promotes atheism is material security: "Again and again in Norenzayan's research, societies that are existentially secure—meaning that people have access to health care and a strong social safety net, that there is a strong rule of law, but also that they are not facing deadly diseases or natural disasters—tend toward less religion and also more tolerance of atheism." So maybe those crazy conservatives are right after all. Maybe Obamacare really is a secular plot.
More at the link.