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Individual Differences in Existential Orientation: Empathizing and Systemizing Explain the Sex Difference in Religious Orientation and Science Acceptance

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Patrick Rosenkranz, Dr Bruce Charlton


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On a wide range of measures and across cultures and societies, women tend to be more religious than men. Religious beliefs are associated with evolved social-cognitive mechanisms such as agency detection and theory-of-mind. Women perform better on most of these components of social cognition, suggesting an underlying psychological explanation for these sex differences. The Existential Orientation Scale was developed to extend the measurement of religion to include non-religious beliefs (Study 1). Factor analysis extracted two dimensions: religious orientation and science acceptance. This new scale was used to investigate the hypothesis that the dimensions of empathizing, a measure of social cognition, and systemizing can explain the sex differences in religious orientation (Study 2). The sex differences in both religious orientation and science acceptance disappeared when empathizing and systemizing were entered. This indicates that underlying dimensions of individual differences can explain existential orientation better than being male or female.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rosenkranz P, Charlton BG

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Archive for the Psychology of Religion

Year: 2013

Volume: 35

Issue: 1

Pages: 119-146

Print publication date: 01/01/2013

ISSN (print): 0084-6724

Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers


DOI: 10.1163/15736121-12341255


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