Religion might literally influence how you view the world. Scientists in the Netherlands compared Dutch Calvinists with Dutch atheists, looking for any effects potentially imposed on thinking by the neo-Calvinist concept of sphere sovereignty, which emphasizes that each sector of society has its own responsibilities and authorities. The researchers hypothesize that Calvinists might therefore not be as good as atheists at seeing the big picture. Participants were shown images of large rectangles or squares that each consisted of smaller rectangles or squares. In some tests, volunteers had to quickly identify the shapes of the smaller parts; in others, the larger wholes. The Calvinists scored slightly but significantly lower than atheists did in correctly identifying whole images. The investigators plan to study other religions for similar influences. See more in the November 12 PLoS ONE.
This article was originally published with the title "Seeing on Faith" in Scientific American 300, 1, 28 (January 2009)