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

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image of Archive for the Psychology of Religion

Abstract 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.

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, Newcastle University Newcastle upon Tyne UK;


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