Scientists claim the way a person answers simple math problem is a good predictor of their belief in a religion

Q: If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

201204261310If you answered $10 you are inclined to believe in religion. If you answered $5 you are inclined to disbelieve.

Why? Because, according to new research reported in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science, the $10 answer indicates that you are an intuitive thinker, and the $5 answer indicates that you solve problems analytically, rather than following your gut instinct.

Psychologists William Gervais and Ara Norenzayan, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, predicted that people who were more analytic in thinking would tend not to believe in religion, whereas people who approach problems more intuitively would tend to be believers. Their study confirmed the hypothesis and the findings illuminate the mysterious cognitive process by which we reach decisions about our beliefs.

Religion and Reason: Analytic thinking decreases religious belief.

(Image: Baseball, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from swaimsketching's photostream)


    1. When I read it, I left out the word “and”, making the sentence “If a baseball  bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?” So if bat = $110 and ball is $100 less, then obviously the ball costs $10. There is no other answer to it, the way I read it. I was saddened to find that I was both wrong and wrong. I’m now going with “the ball cost $5. I don’t beleive in higher powers, except for maybe aliens and ghosts (I’ve seen a ghost, but not an alien, or a god).

        1. Therein lies the better diagnostic… “once one realizes their instinctive guess of $10 is wrong, do they react with anger, denial, rationalizing… or do they react with a bemused note to self to not make that particular mistake again?”

          1. Hollow… you’re thinking the ball costs $100 less than the bat+ball price. Bat costs $105, 105-100=5.

            I made the same mistake on instinct, but as John Hardy said, I also always assume I’m wrong on first instinct so check the math.

          2. x is the cost of the baseball
            100 + x is the cost of the bat

            x + (100 + x) = 110
            x + x = 110 – 100
            2x = 10
            x = 5

            Still confused, Hollow? :) 

      1. The correct answer is 5.
        Because the bat is 100 More (than the PRICE of the ball) The price of the ball? 
        Price Ball +( (pice ball + 100)Bat) = 110
        so Bat is 100 more than ball so the ball is not free the ball price plus $100

        1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that most Atheists aren’t going to think this way either.  Now that I’ve had a chance to wrap my brain around it, I get it, but it’s still a very convoluted question and I’m sure that the vast majority of single-variable algebra students who are fresh with the discipline would fail too.

        1. I fail to see how how being in the closet is going to make him any better or worse at math, unless it’s really dark in there.

    2. Doesn’t everybody have a little switch in their brain that can be toggled between Math and Philosophy? I see the problem, say ‘algebra’ and my brain routes it to that area for processing.

          1. I still used intuition to solve the problem, but the first aspect of the intuition in Math mode is that the ‘obvious’ answer is probably wrong.

            In the hospital, you have a phone number for calling in a Code Blue, which in my case was extension 1234.  You would think that would be easy to remember, but when there’s blood spray and screaming, your mind can easily go blank.  So we never trained anyone to remember that simple number; we trained them to scan for stickers (of which there were dozens all over the place) that said Code Blue 1234.  You need those triggers in daily life, too.  Like for math problems.  And evaluating the new boyfriend.

          2. If the obvious answer is probably wrong then would not a person not believing in a god actually believe in a god and vice versa? 

      1. Yes, everyone does.  It breaks quite often, though.  Mine is broken and won’t budge from philosophy.

    3. It also fails to take religious people who are good at math into account.

      Honestly, I can understand this test works reasonably well in the US, but I really wonder how well it does in other countries. Not all Christians are idiots.

      1. Not all religious people are stupid, but most stupid people are religious.  There is strong negative correlation between IQ test scores and religious belief.  

        1. Not all religious people are stupid, but most stupid people are religious.

          Not all people who are bad at math(s) are stupid, but most stupid people are bad at math(s).

          This subthread is going to make a great Venn diagram.

        2.  I don’t think that’s accurate really.  Most of the stupid people that I’ve known since I actually started critically thinking about religion are essentially apostates.  They might have been raised a religion, but they do not practice it nor do they have anything to do with it in their lives except perhaps on special occasions because they’re reminded externally to participate.

          For them religion is a spectator sport, and in my humble opinion they need to be reminded of that daily to get them to either go study the religion they claim to adhere to in order to get some damn morals, or they need to accept that they’re not part of it and move on with their lives.

      2. Not necessarily, because there are both religious and nonreligious people who are good at math, so the statistics would even out. Plus, the problem is based on very simple math: 105 + 5 = 110 isn’t really difficult math for the average adult (or adolescent, for that matter). It’s simply a matter of whether the respondent answers intuitively (i.e. doesn’t stop to think about it), or analytically.

        Not sure how the US ties into that. Maybe numbers work different there…

    4. There is no “taking into account those who answer too quickly,” as this is precisely what it is testing — those who answer instinctively (“too quickly”) and those who examine (“analyze,” as they say) the problem first.

      It’s also worth noting that this was only one in a series of questions.

    5.  Hello, here is my “Spanish Atheist View”:

      (in the sports shop)–Hello, i want a baseball and a bat, ¿how much is it?  —    $110.  The bat costs $100 more than the ball
      –Oh, then I want the bat only, please, because it’s $5, no more.–    …security, come here, please…LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL
      another “Mathematical fallacy” (source: Wikipedia) that will make you doubt your “infernal devil’s atheistic and beliefs” of a “bad at math” atheist:  2=1


      In Spain, the 95% of the TV and Radio media are ultra-conservative far-right or Catholic fundamentalist, so we are careful to check where it came from the information that reaches us, so that they not lied to us.
      ¿really that research comes from a public university?
      Sorry for my english

        1. Just because you have to be very good at semantics to argue with a theologian, doesn’t mean the theologian is very good at semantics.

          You’d need to be very, very good at science to answer all of the “Why?”s of a three-year-old, but the three-year-old doesn’t have to know a thing.

    1. Religious people simply don’t think for themself, they just belive what pops into their minds or is placed there by some “father figure”.

      1. ” …less likely to get the right answers to questions using logic and reasoning.”

    2. The overwhelming majority of people who are very good at math (able to do graduate level math) are not religious.

  1. Yeah, I have plenty of faith in random chance and no math skills. How many other athiest artists will say $10?

    1.  Atheist artist here, also said $10. (was religious until I was 28 then dropped the whole thing in a fit of logic)

      1.  I went to a catholic elementary school, but by 9th grade I was full of acid & couldn’t possibly parse the whole imaginary friend scenario.
        So that explains my math problem, not sure about the religiosity.

      2. I must be a really dumb Atheist because I can’t figure out how 110 – 100 = 5. *edit, I just got it.

        1.  Mind explaining to me??! Agnostic.. Sure I might believe something is there but that’s just cause Aliens make more sense then God.

          1. I’m not following this either, and, not to brag or anything, but my IQ is is nothing to sneeze at so this is annoying, lol. The sentence tells you that a ball and a bat at 110, thus establishing the price of those two items adds up to 110. Next part is “And the bat costs $100 more then the ball.” Not 105, 100. If the total price is 110, and the bat is 100, then the ball has to be 10. Though looking at the other replies I’m now seeing people saying this is Algabra. So I guess the issue is that we are stacking the cost of the bat on top of the ball, addition/substraction, whereas the value of the ball is overlapping with the value for the bat. Ergo the ball is 5 because you need the value of the ball, that value again, and then the bat price because the bat is 100 “more” over the overlapping values. I never took algabra so I’m probably explaining this poorly. And frankly if this is what algbra like I’m glad I went the arts/design route in education rather then math. my head hurts.

          2. replying to Melanie

            If the ball costs $10, then the bat would have to cost $110 in order to be $100 more.

            If the ball costs $5, then the bat would have to cost $105 in order to be $100 more.


      3. Dumb atheist linguist here: $10. DAMN it, that makes so much more sense if you stop skim reading posts so much. I even remember doing a  similar problem years ago (probably the same numbers, but a different scenario).

        1. My religious American wife: probably $2. I mean, they’ll probably just hike the price up for the set, right?

    2.  Are there any artists athier than I am? 
      I thought I was the athiest of them. 
      I said $10 for a second, then intuitively changed my mind to “whatever I really don’t care” for math games, to then coming up with $5, which caused me to re-read the problem. 
      All without any thinking. 
      I hate numbers and they don’t like me either. 

        1.  That’s why I have such an “athier than thou” attitude. 
          Many are just somewhat athi-ish compared to me. 

    3. I did and only after reading the comments I understood it. So because i am slow, I am religious. Strange philosophy.

    1. Here’s a link to Sweetie (a.k.a. Glycon) for you:

      I listened to my gut first, then said, “That’s too simple.” So… I did the step-by-step math… simple algebra… and came to the correct answer. If anything, though, I think this exercise best illuminates (1) how snap judgments fail and (2) that reasoning is a skill one trains to have (i.e. it does not come naturally).

      Perhaps you can extrapolate the tendency to belief/disbelief from that, but I’d need a closer look at the research to be sure. Food for thought, either way!

  2. I turn up as super-analytical in all of the personality tests I’ve taken for work, but still went for $10 because I’m terrible at mental math and just grabbed the quick answer.  So I… believe in God when I’m panicking?

  3. Well, I answered $5, and I’m religious, but I don’t “believe” in religion. I experiment with it.

    1. Judging from the comments here, you’d get the impression that atheists tend to answer $10, while religious people answer $5. I’m Christian and I answered $5.

  4. My thought process:

    $10. Wait, that’s too easy, read the question again. mathmathmath 5 bucks.

  5. What? wait…. $110 – $100 = $10, so unless we were supposed to factor for taxes or something else, how is $5 the more analytical answer and mathematically wrong at the same time? What the hell am I missing here?? (math never having been my strong suit)

      1. Oh thank God (heh!), yours was the first post I came to that points out the obvious to the oblivious. $90 less, of course. Face palm, etc.

        By the way, also non-religious and high IQ here. And a believer that we really ought to stop insinuating that the religious are stupid. Not very classy.

        1. Tellya what-when they stop calling me evil and damned. Stupid is still taking the high road. Plus name one classy religion.

    1.  It took me a moment too. The bat costs $100 more than the ball. So you have to take into account the cost of the ball (n) and the cost of the bat (n+100). So, if n+ (n+100) = 110, n = 5.

        1. Yeah, thanks for this plus the “if the bat is $100 and the ball is $10 then the difference in price is $90, not $100” responses I finally understood what was going on. Math and I haven’t been on speaking terms for awhile now, so this one was beyond me- a Dawkins-style Agnostic Environmentalist.

    2. Ugh… ok, well this atheist clearly needs to leave all math questions to his kids. Thanks for the explanations… I think I’m going to go crawl under the nearest rock where I can die from embarrassment.

    3. The bat is $100 *more* expensive than the ball, meaning that the bat is the cost of the ball + $100, therefore if the total is $110, then the ball must be $5 and since the bat is $100 *more* than the ball, it is $105 resulting in the correct total. I dumped out the $10 answer too, I doubt this has much to do with religion — more to do with how much time you spend reading a question before answering, which is usually based on the consequences of a wrong answer which in this situation is next to none.

      1.  Well my only excuse for the $10 answer is I suck at word problems and always have. Actual numbers though I am good at, hahaha

      2.  …how much time you spend reading a question before answering, which is usually based on the consequences of a wrong answer…

        Working in science I’ve come to realise that the really good scientists are often the people who never let something like this go. There may be zero consequence for getting the answer wrong, but good training/instinct tells them not to let a wrong answer stand, and to check all answers. These are the people who spot connections and patterns that most of us miss.

        For the record, my process went something like: $10…feels wrong…$10+$110= $120…hmm, calculate don’t guess, $5.

      3. Also, is English your first language? Because it was only when I actually translated the sentence into Norwegian that I found I could read the answer directly from the text (I first used algebra to find the answer). And I consider myself fluent in English..

    4. Total cost, t is $110.

      Ball cost, x is unknown.

      Bat cost, y is $100 more than x, so y = x + 100.

      We also know the total cost is the sum of the cost of the bat and ball, so t = x + y.

      Since we know that y is also equal to x + 100, we can substitute it in the t = x + y equation like this:
      t = x + x + 100, which is also equal to
      t = 2x + 100

      We also know the value of t, it’s $110.

      110 = 2x + 100

      We can subtract 100 from both sides of the equation:

      110 – 100 = 2x + 100 – 100

      Which comes to:

      10 = 2x

      Now we can divide both sides by 2.

      10/2 = 2x/2

      And we have the answer:

      5 = x

      The cost of the ball is $5.

    5. The bat is $100 MORE than the ball, so if the ball were $10 the bat would be $110 for a total of $120.

    6. I’m (supposedly) a scientist (and atheist) and it fooled me, hard. So don’t feel bad.

      However, in the circumstances of a scientific study I would like to think that I would have thought about it more :)

    1. You made a mistake on what X is equal to
      if X is 100 MORE than Y then
      X = Y + 100
      therefore if you replace X with (Y + 100) in the original equation you get:
      (Y + 100)+Y = 110
      broken down to:
      2Y = 10 or Y = 5
      Put that back into the first equation of (X = Y + 100) and you get:
      X = (5) + 100 or X = 105

      Edit: Somehow I replied to the wrong person…

    2. 100 isn’t 100 more than 10, though, is it? $105 is $100 more than $5, however. I got the right answer of $5, and I do happen to be an atheist, but I’m unconvinced that there’s a causation. Perhaps a correlation for geekery.

    3. bat = ball + 100

      bat + ball = 110

      (ball + 100) + ball = 110
      2ball + 100 = 110
      2ball = 10
      ball = 5

        1. Think of it as the language of numbers:

          1 = A
          2 = The
          3 = Hello
          4 = Please
          5 = Thank you
          6 = Goodbye
          7 = What
          8 = CLASSIFIED
          9 = CLASSIFIED
          10 = Man

          I’m just referencing Look Around You all over the place today.

        2. Obviously not like English, but there are many different kinds of languages, and math is a pretty important one.

    1.  I completely agree. It is ambiguously worded, so that I assumed that it referred to a bat and ball set as a single item. This made the $10 solution true. However it is a problem in linguistic reasoning not mathematical reasoning and thus the $5 solution is true.

      Thus I submit, that like a quadratic equation there are two true solutions to this puzzle and it is a study in spotting ambiguity, rather than mathematical acumen or ponderousness to religiosity.

    1. You believe there’s possibility that math exists, but you don’t believe in prime numbers.

  6. So religious people don’t check their work?   My first thought was $10.   Then I did what you have to do – see if when the ball is $10 and the bat is $100 it works out that the bat is $100 more than the ball.   It doesn’t, so you have to find another solution.   Unfortunately at that point part of my brain went “ugh, math” and the other part was reading ahead in the article  and saw the solution.   And yes, I’m an atheist.   

    1.  Because we look around and say, intuitively, “wow, the smartest person or thing I can think of is not smart enough or powerful enough make the simplest life form from scratch, therefore there must be something smarter and more powerful that can do that!” Or “Wow, this world fits me so perfectly, it is almost as if it was made for me, but who could have made something that complex?” Intuitively, the answer to these questions tends to be “god or gods.” It’s only been in the last couple centuries that humans have had the knowledge necessary to make the rational deductions that “There is something more powerful, chemistry and selective pressure,” and “It wasn’t made for us, we evolved for it.”

      So, yes, god is the more intuitive answer.

      1. Your initial questions don’t make much sense and seem very unintuitive. Why would you even think anything was made when you can see things grow. Man made objects usually look nothing like natural things. I can’t even imagine the idyllic life that a person would have to have lived to come to the conclusion that the world was made for them (presuming they’re not a psychopath anyway).

        I think to even come up with these questions you would have to be rather analytical. 

        However, I can see that once you accept the bizarre premise that there is a powerful undetectable being toying with your life for no apparent reason then I guess you could intuit that it is the cause of just about everything.

        1. I think most serious Christians consider a broader field of evidence than you’re enumerating.  Specifically, they consider the historical claims of Jesus’s death and resurrection to be key to their belief.  

          They looked at the evidence for the resurrection, as well as the other things you’ve listed, plus various people’s personal experiences, considered the various reasons to doubt Christianity, and ultimately concluded that the overall weight of evidence leaned towards Christianity being true.

          Obviously not all self-described Christians think things through in this manner, but many have.

          1. They looked at the evidence for the resurrection, as well as the other things you’ve listed, plus various people’s personal experiences, considered the various reasons to doubt Christianity, and ultimately concluded that the overall weight of evidence leaned towards Christianity being true.

            There’s not actually any evidence for the resurrection.  Unless you want to count the gospels as a real honest historical source which no competent historian would do.

          2. I think most people on this forum are familiar with the positions involved, so simply re-asserting one of them doesn’t really advance the discussion.

      2. “Wow, this world fits me so perfectly, it is almost as if it was made for me”

        A perfectly valid feeling; the direction is just backwards. We evolved to live in the world that was already there, so of course it’s going to feel like it fits us perfectly. We fit IT perfectly (well, maybe not 100%, but well enough to elicit this feeling, clearly).

        Similar to the idea that the physical laws of the universe (and our particular planet) are so finely tuned to support life, that it feels like the odds are way too small to be just a coincidence.  Well, a) the odds were still non-zero, so it’s still not impossible to be random chance, and b) if the laws of physics and/or the formation of our planet HAD been any different, we wouldn’t even be here to have these thoughts or ask these questions. That was a possibility too, it just didn’t happen.

        I understand the desire to “know” why we exist, but I don’t understand it when it becomes a compulsion. Sure, it would be nice to “know”, but I really don’t think there is anything TO “know”. We exist. That’s it. Why does there have to be a reason? Purpose is a human concept that doesn’t necessarily apply to meta-human affairs. Existence just exists. It wasn’t floating around in oblivion first, pondering the idea of making itself exist, weighing the pros and cons, trying to find a reason to burst forth into being.

        1. I think it’s kind of a chicken and egg problem.  If God doesn’t exist, then to some extent understanding why we exist is just a mental hobby.  If God does exist, then the “why” question carries a whole lot more relevance.

          1. If God doesn’t exist we can find our own answers to “why.”  If God does exist then we’re in the position of having to support His agenda or be tortured for eternity. 

            The upshot is that my own answers to “why” are more relevant to me and my life than the answers of some nebulous cosmic dictator who, even according to the beliefs of his biggest fans, doesn’t give a fuck about us except unless we declare ourselves fawning slaves to His whim.  So I think you have it completely backwards.

    2. Agnostic here, but have talked to plenty of smart Christians.

      I think the “intuitive” thing might come into play regarding experiential evidence for the existence of God.  As you might remember from one Cylon in the new Battlestar Galactica, some people see patterns that others don’t.  I think there are some Christians who see patterns in their lives, in the appearance of answered prayer, in the appearance of a Holy Spirit coordinating the efforts of Christians, and chalk it up to God.  

      Basically, they make inferences (intuitively) that non-Christians consider to be inaccurate.

    3. Because the people who created the experiment had to choose  a word for that type of thinking and chose to use “intuitive”, probably out of politeness, because “sloppy” would be a better fit.

  7. The ball has to cost $0.05, and the bat has to cost $1.05 because 

    A. $1.05 + $0.05 = $1.10 


    B. $1.05 – $0.05 = $1.00 

    It is common for people who do not think through the problem to respond with $0.10, but this is incorrect because 

    C. Although $1.00 + $0.10 = $1.10, 

    D. $1.00 – $0.10 = $0.90, which is not $1.00 more, as required by the problem. 

    To solve the problem with algebra, it would look something like this: 

    Set up the equation: 
    x + ($1.00 + x) = $1.10 

    Collect like terms: 
    $1.00 + 2x = $1.10 

    Subtract $1.00 from each side of the equation to isolate the variable, x: 
    2x = $0.10 

    Solve for x: 
    x = $0.05 

    Check your work: 
    x + ($1.00 + x) = $1.10, so 
    $0.05 + ($1.00 + $0.05) = $1.10 

    Do the arithmetic: 
    $1.10 = $1.10, so the solution is valid.

    Source:  Wiki answers. Knew $10 was wrong, but couldn’t quite do it all in my head. Must be agnostic to want to discover the truth and know how and why.

  8. I got tripped up on this too, and I’m not religous.

    Expressed in mathy it’s: ball + bat = $110, where bat is defined as (ball + $100). So the equation is ball + (ball + $100) = $110. Not ball + $100 = $110.


  9. What missamo80 said. I had to do it algebraically. And didn’t read the problem correctly to begin with. :o But, point is, this is a dipshit test. I’m pretty angrily anti-religious.

  10. So, what’s the lesson with the folks who wrote the title?  Since they (intuitively) inferred causation from an intentionally correlational study?

    1. While there are more atheists than ever before as global population continually increases, the atheist percentage of the total population seem to be declining. This may be because birth rates in religious societies are much higher. 
      But we’re not as extinct as you suggest. 
      A 1995 survey attributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica indicates that the non-religious are about 14.7% of the world’s population, and atheists around 3.8%.  

      (copy-pasted from Wikipedia)

  11. Seriously people?  If the ball cost $10, then the bat would cost $110 (since it’s $100 more), but then, the total would be $10 + $110 = $12o.  BUT, it was given that the total was $110, so that can’t be right!


    x= y +100

    Sub in [2] into [1] and you get:

    y+ 100 + y = 110
    2y +100 = 110
    2y = 10
    y = 5

    Now time to double-check!  The ball costs $5.  The bat costs $100 more so, $5+$100 = $105.  Together, $5+$105 = $110!  OH MY FRIGGIN GOD! IT WORKS! IMA FRIGGIN WIZARD!

    1. My brain went for $10 right away but was like that isn’t right but I can parse why.All that college 300 level math I can (or could at one point in my life) write out a proof  of 1+1=2 but I still can’t add it in my head worth a damn. I would have had to write it somewhat like above. 

  12. I got hit in the head with a baseball+bat. I can’t do math. I still don’t believe there’s a omnipotent sentient being running the universe.

  13. LMAOO i like this article and all the ppl commenting. btw i got $10 but don’t consider myself religious or non religious . although i was raised Catholic and I suck at math.

    1.  I was terrible at Algebra and don’t get me started on word problems. When I described my frustration my math teacher said, “You just have to believe”. Ironic, no?

  14. ….and fail. Sigh. So is there a question I can answer that’ll tell me what religion I’m supposed to be now?

    1. Probably takes a few questions.  Starting with:

      1) Did Jesus really live, and really die on a cross, and really appear alive 3 days later?

      2) Did Mohammed really do whatever miraculous stuff he was supposed to have done.


    2.  Why take a risk? Join them all. Though the Church of the SubGenius might also be a good choice if you’re pressed for time.

  15. “A good predictor”, means a correlation and not a cause.  I can’t quite tell what in the title you thought implied that math responses caused religions beliefs.  Can you clarify?

    1. A good predictor normalizes for other factors. For example, early tests of Tay-Sachs disease (common among the Eastern European descended Jewish community) included markers common to Tay-Sachs patients but also among Jews who didn’t have the disease, simply because of the correlation of the disease to the heritage. But better predictors were created that dealt with the correlation  A “good predictor” of religious beliefs would obviously need to normalize for other factors such as geekery.

  16. Seems some people having problems with this:

    What you’re doing is seeing $100 more and $110 so thinking $110-$100 = $10 ball. But the bat is $100 MORE than the ball and $10+$100 for the bat plus then $10 for the ball would equal $120 which is wrong.

    The actual answer is $5.  A $5 ball means a $105 bat (it’s $100 more).  $5 ball + $105 bat = $110.

  17. …Damnit! The way the post is formatted, the answer pops into sight faster than the question. I guess I’ll never know whether I’m religious or not.

  18. i read too quickly and got to the “If you answered $10 you are…” bit before i started thinking about the question. and then i realized it was a question, so i backed up. but couldn’t get “$10” out of my head.

    Bad Test Design!


  19. Dammit. The way the page is formatted, I missed the baseball AND batt cost $110. I thought it said baseball batt costs $110.

    Now, I will never know. 

  20. I’m not worried because I’m an Atheist and my answer was $10.
    I’m worried because I have a Master’s degree in maths and computer science and my answer was $10.

    1. Me too. And it seems that Quakers have a strong tendency to be intuitive.
      At Pendle Hill we tried out the MBTI – 100% of the 18 people who took it scored as intuitive types. (89% were INFPs and the other two only differed in one of the last two letters)

      1.  Again, this is a different type of “intuitive” than the one meant in the study.  Pretty much anyone who is analytical will end up with “intuitive” on the MBTI.

  21. The major problem with this study is somehow equating intuitive with “bad at math”. I am a mathematician who is on the extreme “Intuitive” side of a Myers-Briggs test. In fact, many mathematicians are the most intuitive people I know. However, none of my mathematician friends are religious. To me, this is equating religious belief with “bad at problem solving”, versus anything about intuition.

    1. Well, it kind of depends upon how you define religious. If you mean participating in traditional religious ritual, I’d say that’s probably true. But it seems like most working mathematicians tend towards neo-Platonism, which has a distinctly mystical cast (as opposed to Philosophers of Math, which tend to come out of liberal arts departments and therefor are pretty much required to endorse Formalism in the mathematical realm).

      Seriously, ask your math friends if maths are invented or discovered, and them ask them to explain their opinions. You’ll probably find the answers very non-materialist, and probably bordering on spiritual/mystical.

      1. You can think math is discovered without appealing to Platonism.

        Basically, there is a proof space induced by mathematical logics.  The “discovery” (in my mind, anyway) is finding useful paths through that space.  That is to say, to me proofs are a search through a huge, infinite, discrete space.  I.e., discovery, but not mystical.

        1. Yes, it’s the axioms and definitions that provide the structure that mathematicians are “exploring”, not some ghostly Platonic realm of forms.  I would think non-Euclidean geometries and Godel’s theorem would have gotten across to everyone that there isn’t one correct form of “mathematics”.

          On the other hand, I think Ambiguity is right that if you actually go out and ask mathematicians their answers will sound spooky and neo-Platonist.  That was one of my worries when I decided to major in mathematics — my advisor mentioned that most mathematicians do seem to be Platonists in this sense.

          1. I would think non-Euclidean geometries and Godel’s theorem would have gotten across to everyone that there isn’t one correct form of “mathematics

            All I got out of it was that I shouldn’t sail the South Pacific after a big earthquake.

    2. I’m not great at math, but I do have a good intuition for it. In this case, the moment I got to $10, my intuition, not my analysis, told me it needed to be split between ball and bat. Or maybe I’m an intuitive analyzer.

    3.  I think Myers-Briggs means something a little different by “intuitive” than this study does.  On the Myers-Briggs scale, “intuitive” is compared against “sensory” (IIRC) — I think this variable in the test has more to do with whether you live in the world or live in your head.  So actually I’d expect almost all mathematicians to end up in the “intuitive” category because people who don’t live in their head probably don’t have much patience for difficult mathematics.  INTP with a math degree, BTW.

  22. Let’s see if I understand this.   If you believe in religion, then you skip over the word “more” in a sentence.  If you don’t believe in religion, then you do *not* skip over the word “more” in a sentence.  Therefore, there is something magic about the word “more”.  Therefore religion is true, because religion is all about magic.

  23. I’m religious and did not answer $10. Being an analytical thinking does not preclude you from being religious. In fact in my religion Judaism we study the Talmud which requires  analytical and critical thinking. If you think that it is impossible to be rational and believe in G-d the read the book “Permission to Believe”.

    1. I’m not an atheist because I think it’s impossible to be rational and believe in god.

      I’m an atheist because I think it’s impossible to believe in god and be right.

  24. I got the right answer intuitively. It wasn’t until I looked at the comments that I really understood my answer mathematically, but I kind of knew that it had to be less than $10,  and $5+$5 seemed important or something, so the ball was probably $5 and that makes the bat… $105? Yeah that seems right. That was my thought process. I suspect some part of my deep brainy bits were recognizing the math involved, but not the conscious part.

    But I also don’t really fit on the whole atheist-religious spectrum all that well. I don’t believe in god or gods, I do believe in science, but I do believe some things that could never be scientifically verified or even tested scientifically, which dickish, Dawkins-esque atheists would probably consider magical nonsense.

    For that matter, I believe that there probably are universes out there that are governed by god-like beings, but I don’t believe we live in one. So what does that make me?

  25. I’m religious and I answered $5 right away. I feel like this perpetuates the idea that religious people are idiotic and don’t think analytically. Also, I believe that my intuition focused more on achieving the difference of $100 rather than simply changing $110 to 100 and 10. Who says everyone’s intuition has to be the same? When I do math I tend to visualize it. In the case of simple addition and subtraction, I think of it as gaps or spaces between numbers in a number line. Thus the numbers 105 and 5 is no less intuitive than the numbers 100 and 10. 

    1.  What words are appropriate for believers in a 6000 year old world?  I guess we could go with “blessedly ignorant”?

  26. Then there are people like me who are, like, fuck it, and give the first answer that seems close since it doesn’t really matter in the entire scheme of things anyway and I just want to get on with the article.

    1. Yeah, people who don’t want to think too deeply about it and just accept whatever answer their parents gave and get on with their lives. Well, except on Sundays.

  27. As an apathetic agnostic (don’t know if there is a god or not, don’t really care that much), I can honestly say that since I don’t play baseball, or watch baseball, or desire to own a baseball or a bat, I don’t care how much they cost.

  28. This is a terrible headline! It would be much more accurate to word it the other way around: “Belief is a good predictor of the way a person answers a simple math problem.”

    This version does have some oversimplifications though, like any headline.

  29. My first thought was that you can get a baseball plus a bat from Amazon for like $20, which tells me that these researchers didn’t do any comparison shopping.

    1. Yeah, I assumed that there would be an anti-discount. and that the ball would be $20, if sold separately. Yep, Unitarian.

  30. I am religious, and I thought the 105/5 split was obvious.

    I wonder if they would get the same results if they tried to include people who had more often questioned their own religious or nonreligious beliefs, and excluded people who had simply accepted certain religious or nonreligious beliefs. An imperfect proxy would be to focus on people who had gone away from both parents’ religious or nonreligious beliefs, by excluding people who shared either parent’s religious or nonreligious beliefs.

    1. I, too, thought the 105/5 split was fairly obvious… at least to the point where I’m genuinely shocked at all the algebraic proofs displayed in the comments above.  I read the question, knew the answer within a couple seconds after reading the question… and not because I’m particularly a math genius.  I’ve just never considered myself bad at it.  But the fact that 105 is a hundred more than 5, and they add up to 110, strikes me as barely arithmetic, let alone algebra.  Maybe my intuition is unconsciously analytical, I dunno.

      As for my religion/spirituality, I was a Methodist until I gave it up sometime in high school.  I used to believe quite devoutly, then was agnostic for a couple decades, and now I’ve pretty much made up my mind to believe that there ain’t no such thing.  For what it’s worth, I’m not as good at math as I used to be when I was religious.  But that’s probably due to age and disuse rather than whether or not I’m analytical by nature.

    2. I got the answer wrong. And I grew up in a Christian family and in an Christian environment, although in no way a fundamental one. I became an atheist around the age 10-12 when one night pondering on if the space was infinite or not, and how that would look like. A god(s) would be kind of like an infinite space… but… where would then a god come from? Made absolutely no sense to me, so instant atheist. So yes, I would call myself analythical but bad with numbers (not bad with math… but there is a reason I use variables and let them do the number crunching for me). Not that I question my own non-belief… gods still do not make any sense to me.

      I agree with what somebody said above: A more interesting question is how people react when they learn they got the answer wrong. (Me: What??? No, it cannot be 5 because… um… uuh… oh! Ehhehhheh… oops!)

  31. $5, and I am a cradle (devout) Catholic. I wonder what that says about me? Maybe that I have been doing math like this since I was 4.

    1.  You’re not the only one.  Then I realized I was wrong and became a $10 I believe that probably there is something else out there, but I don’t belong to any religion and if I did it would be Unitarian better known as being in the running for being the least religious religion there is.

    2. Similar event here. I went “Two hundred and  ten .. wait (I sear my brain made a sound like a botched shift) ..what was i suppose to find the value of?” *the brain then remembered to pull in the clutch first, then shift*

      Perhaps this ‘test’ is a better indicator of the inclination of a person to just skim articles rather than read them?

  32. This is a question of comprehension and simple maths. There’s no observation of how you arrive at the result, and nobody asked to “show working”. It’s not a test of analytical vs intuitive, or even religious vs non-religions; it’s maths.

    1. I always tripped up on the ‘show your work’ nonsense. I do most of my math in my head. Unless there are several sub-problems, scribbling something on the paper just takes time and distracts from getting the answer.

  33. I think most people, if given 2 seconds to come up with an answer, will say $10. And most who then take the time to think about it will end up with $5 as the answer. For me the point of this exercise is, that when it comes to religion, most people don’t think that deeply about why they believe. They believe because its the instinctive reaction to the world, because their family believes, because there is peer pressure to believe, etc. They don’t WANT to think deeply about it for fear of upsetting their world view. Because just as in this example, what they instinctively believe is likely to be wrong. Of course religion isn’t math so its not quite as cut and dried as a specific numeral.

  34. After being analytical about the scientist who proposed intuitive=religious, I have calculated that the person is probably a male, non-religious,  good at math, bad at cognitive science and understanding humans, and has confirmation bias. 

    (btw I read the original question as baseball bat cost, did not see the “and” – but I did intuitively get the monty hall question right.

  35. That study must have been so flawed. Or is it just that boingboing readers – no matter whether they are religious or atheist – simply do not run to type? Another $10 atheist here…

    1. I think BB readers will tend to comment more if their results are different from the predicted result.

  36. The confounding variable is schooling not religion.  More years of school means  more exposure to such questions and less focus on religious studies.

  37. at $100 dollars for baseball bat I’d have no choice but to reach the conclusion that IF there is a god he isn’t a fan of Baseball

    1. I can understand a good bat costing $105, but a bat and ball sold together sounds like a lot for a starter set.

  38. The simple math problem above is just an example, not THE actual litmus test that determines your tendency toward myth belief.  

    You could be an atheist and get the problem wrong or believe in some god figure and get it right.  All of us use both separate cognitive systems for processing thought all the time.

    The point of the research is that the more time you allow your brain to use the fast, emotional, & intuitive thought process, the more likely you will have supernatural beliefs, the more time you spend in analytical thought negates that inclination (but does not directly contribute to unbelief.) 

    My interpretation is that the evolved analytical part of our brain saves us from an evolutionary older and irrational animistic side of us that needs to invent god fantasy.

    1. Good point bringing up “supernatural”. I’m a $10 atheist with zero belief in “religion”; however, I would always entertain a discussion about the supernatural.

  39. Huh, Christian, but answered $5.  That said, the mere fact that I was prepped with “This is a math question” meant I was looking for it to be tricky and was on my toes.  In a real-life situation, who knows.

  40. Irrespective of the answer to the math problem, I am  inclined to be very very suspicious of paragraphs that begin “Scientists claim…”

  41. Did they count atheists among the religious people? If a formal institution is what counts as religion, then atheism isn’t one, but then again there are plenty of people believing in various deities that aren’t part of any organized religion, so to include them you have to define the term based on what people believe in, namely a metaphysical world view (that cannot be proved or disproved). That definition includes atheists, however. Only proper agnostics, that truly refuses to believe in any metaphysical world view are excluded, but I don’t know if there are any such people in existence.

    “You’re a loon”, is probably what most of you are thinking now, but look at it this way:
    Imagine a map of all possible metaphysical views. Every dot on the map is one such view. A few of them may be variants of the solipsistic world view, where you in fact are the only thing in existence and everything else an illusion. A few may be variants of the Matrix world view, where we in fact live in a computer generated illusion. Others may be materialistic world views of various kinds, differing on ideas about exactly how the self fits into the picture and other things. Others yet include immortal souls and various deities.

    People in general have ideas about where on this map the real world is located. Some have a very specific idea about its location, while others are more vague. But everyone who have an opinion about the location is a believer, since believe is in fact what they do. Only the ones who say: “I just don’t have a clue and cannot be bothered to guess”, are non-believers.

    “Just look. Atheism isn’t a belief. It’s a negation of belief”, is what you’re saying now. That’s not true, though. Atheism is just a subset of the possible world views, just like any other faith. It is pointing at the map and saying: “Even though I have no way of proving it, my gut tells me that we’re somewhere in this area.”

    1.  Atheism is not the ‘negation of belief.’  It is the lack of belief in theism.  That is _all_. 

      How you managed to misdefine so many words in one paragraph is rather impressive btw.

      1. Really? The dictionary defines it as “the theory or belief that God does not exist.” Not a lack of belief in God, but the belief that God does not exist.

        You have to be a little careful in putting too much stock in simple etymological analysis; the precise connotation of a word can rarely be determined by examining its component parts.

        How you managed to misdefine the only operative word in your post is rather impressive, btw :)

        1. I’d have thought a better definition is “the rejection of the belief that God exists”, i.e. agnostics are still theoretically open to the idea, but atheists have made up their minds that they can discount it.

          Basically, I’d say quite a few atheists would agree to rethink their atheism if some aliens came with pretty conclusive evidence of the existence of a deity. In the meantime, we’re not holding out for that evidence and can safely apply Occam’s Razor to deities, alchemy, supernatural phenomena etc.

          1.  William of Ockham was a theologian. His application of the famous razor was to conclude that the only entity whose existence it is logically necessary to assume is God. To him, the simplest explanation for everything was “because it is God’s will.” (Not that this kept him from going on at length about all sorts of things, mind you.) To quote Spider Robinson: “You’d be surprised how many chins William can’t shave.”

            The term is often abused even in its more modern sense of “the simplest hypothesis that covers the data is most likely to be true” when pseudo-skeptics seek to use this heuristic as a theorem, and even as a justification to ignore data that seems to refute their preexisting theories.

          2. @Ultan:disqus  Good point, I wasn’t trying to say that it was the only way to employ the term, just as there would be plenty of disagreement on the definition of the ‘simplest hypothesis’ in such a complex world with so many unknowns. In many ways, you could argue that my use was better than his in that he violated his own principle by introducing a factor that he couldn’t prove exists at all. Basically, I was just saying that from an atheist’s perspective, we don’t have to put God into the equation to understand a lot about the world, therefore we don’t have to be on the fence about his existence. If new evidence come to light, that’s fine, but we can actually say that he doesn’t exist without being irrational or dogmatic.

    2. You’re really arguing about the semantics of the term belief if your trying to say that the very act of trusting that which you experience through your senses constitutes religion.  

      Metaphysics? Just because an idea can be conceived doesn’t mean that there’s any validity to it. You can easily ask questions that can be answered, but the existence of the question doesn’t imply the existence of an answer. Sometimes it’s just a bad question. 

  42. $10 atheist here.
    I think my $10 answer came out of knowing someone was going to provide me the correct answer, and at some point I could work it backwards without consequence. Now if my eternal soul relied upon the answer, I would have (and do) certainly put much more effort into the matter.
    My interpretation of the results would then be that the $5 folks are more fussy and $10 folks are more carefree. :)

    And if we are really going to get all tricksy with word problems, I would guess to say that 100% of us believe in religion.

  43. When I continued reading and saw the beginning of the rest of the article, I thought it must have something to do with sales tax, and I thought, is sales tax in British Columbia around 5%? But that doesn’t make sense, because the various sales taxes in Ontario take things up to something like 15% and I doubt BC is that much less. I over-thought it, in the wrong direction.

    I don’t know what it is about sales tax but it’s been making me wrong on math tests since forever – I answered a word problem involving money in 3rd or 4th grade by including the New York sales tax (which was not asked for on the test) and despite that being a more complicated calculation than anything else on the test, I got it marked wrong!

  44. Analytical? Intuitive? Let’s just say it straight out:
    The article in Science is saying people who are WRONG believe in religion and people who are CORRECT don’t believe in religion.

  45. Hm. I wonder how the results of a study like this would look in a different cultural setting where religion tends to be treated differently than it commonly is in North America. Perhaps in rural Africa, or west India, or… Well, lots of places (can’t be bothered to google a map right now for ideas).

  46. I’m just an atheist who can’t do math and still doesn’t understand why it’s not $10, honestly.

    1. The sum is 110.

      The ball and bat have a difference of 100.  If the ball were 10 and you add a hundred to it that makes the bat 110–and if you then add those together (for the sum) you get 120.  Thus $10 is wrong.

      On the other hand 5 plus 105 gives you $110.

  47. Atheism is a form of religion. To be dogmatically assured about any sort of probability is faith of the exceedingly profound variety. Best to live in glorious uncertainty!

    1. I can’t tell you how obnoxiously stupid that statement that “atheism is a religion,” is. Like not playing football is not a sport by any definition, not believing in gods is not a religion either. Yeah, a few atheists might be dogmatic about it, but that still doesn’t make it a religion.

      1. Yay, name-calling time! But srsly, see my post above instead of arguing with this dude. I’m much more fun.

      2. To be utterly certain that there is not a higher spiritual force in the universe (which some would call “God”) seems to me to be the pinnacle of being dogmatic. Many atheists I know have elevated this into a quasi-religion, and feel a moral superiority to those feeble-minded to entertain thoughts about spirituality. Now, if you embrace uncertainty, you aren’t an atheist, but an agnostic. Correct?

        1. Wrong. While making sweeping statements about the universe can be dogmatic, we can safely discount things like the philosopher’s stone because although we haven’t searched the universe for it, we’re pretty sure that’s not how the universe works. Similarly for a deity, this is not some being hiding behind a star that we’ve missed; theoretically the whole universe was created by ‘God’. We can make statements based on our knowledge of science, while embracing the fact that our own understanding of the universe is limited/flawed.

          1. To me, embracing the fact that our own understanding of the universe is limited/flawed is embracing the uncertainty. To definitively assert that God does not exist  is not acknowledging that our understanding of the universe is limited, and always will be. I always empathize with those who never are completely certain about anything, be they atheists or theists. You can find dogmatic know-it-alls in both camps.

          2. @facebook-1220611758:disqus That’s true, my point was that it is possible to embrace uncertainty without necessarily being on the fence about everything. The problem is, with some theists the idea that you can’t be completely sure that there isn’t a god of any description is tantamount to admitting that a bit of you really believes, but you’re suppressing that belief. I hope I’m not dogmatic, I still stay in close communication with many Christians (including my brother, who also commented on this thread) but I feel it’s best to be clear about what you believe is true. In return, I don’t expect all theists to declare themselves agnostic because they can’t categorically prove that there is a god.

          3.  I guess you didn’t know that only some religions say that the universe was created by ‘God’?  I’d say less than half the religions I’ve studied make that particular claim.

            Perhaps you should not make sweeping statements about things you haven’t bothered to research, eh?

            Because, wouldn’t that be faith-based reasoning?    I prefer the scientific method, myself.

      3. I can’t tell you how obnoxiously stupid that statement that “atheism is a religion,” is.

        You say that as if terms like “religon” have a simple, one-valued definition.

        If you look up the term in a dictionary, you’re likely to find something like the following:

        “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

        Atheism can be a belief concerning things like the nature and cause of the universe (usually, “material” and “random”). It does not meet the “especially” part. And usually means just that: usually.

        Atheism can come with moral codes, such as in Secular Humanism.

        Whether of not some forms or treatments of atheism should be considered a religion is arguable, and I tend to think that, for the most part, they shouldn’t be. But arguable (or even wrong) isn’t the same thing as obviously stupid.

        tl;dr version: your comment is a bit obnoxious.

    2. Please tell me what you think “atheism” means. Because it doesn’t involve ‘dogmatic assurance.’

      1. Science predicts neither the existence nor the non-existence of God.  It does does determine several mythological stories to be factually inaccurate, but religions also determine other peoples’ religions (or even their own) to be factually inaccurate, sot that’s nothing special.

        If someone can explain convincingly why atheism should be considered more rational than agnosticism, I’d like to see it.

        1. There’s one and only one reason, the idea that entities should not be multiplied without necessity. Relatively few atheists would actually consider things more certain than that, and I think most of the rest would argue gods are too poorly defined to discuss.

          It’s up to you whether that reason is good enough. I have to say, though, it gets tiring when people pretend wanting evidence is some kind of religious dogma, as if it’s just the same as deciding some elaborate set of principles or books are a priori true and all morality should be derived from them.

          Atheism can come with some religions, but forming an opinion about whether something is likely or not is not an inherently religious act. Even when mistaken, it’s simply not.

          1.  That’s a misapplication of Ockham’s principle of parsimony.

            If no God exists, then you have to posit billions of incorrect analyses by other sentient beings.  Ockham specifically dealt with this; if you apply the razor as he intended, you can say “it is possible that the  majority of humans that ever lived were incorrect about the existence of God, but it’s more likely that you are the one making the mistake, so check your work and watch out for the inquisition”.

      2. As per my above post, the dictionary defines it as “the theory or belief that God does not exist.”

        Beliefs can be held either dogmatically or non-dogmatically, so dogmatic assurance is certainly a possibility with atheism. Same as with deism, theism, and just about everything else in the human sphere.

        Tendency towards dogmatic belief is just a human thing, and can be found widely amongst many different groups.

  48. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Five Dollar Balls so it was a breeze for me.

    In your face, math!

  49. Please define “good predictor”.  Prima facia, it means it predicts a statistically significant portion of the time.  That should mean 50.0001% of the time or more, but we don’t even know the parameters or definition of belief.  Does tendency to believe cover recovering religious people or agnostics.  Does it cover non associated theists? polytheists, animists, or “generalized non-specific woo syndrome”?  A belief in the collective unconscious.  

    BB science coverage ( and comment threads for that matter ) are usually far better at getting at the real underpinnings of stories/studies like this one.

  50. The actual article is a lot more interesting than this blurb makes it out to be. Remember, this is being printed in Science, and things usually have to be pretty good to get in there. A quote from the article:
    “According to dual-process theories of human thinking, there are two distinct but interacting systems for information processing. One (System 1) relies upon frugal heuristics yielding intuitive responses, while the other (System 2) relies upon deliberative analytic processing. Although both systemscan at times run in parallel, System 2 often overrides the input of system 1 when analytic tendencies are activated and cognitive resources are available. Dual-process theories have been successfully applied to diverse domains and phenomena across a wide range of fields.”

  51. Nope, still not getting this at all.

    If the bat is $100 more than the ball and we know the ball plus the bat cost $110 then surely the ball is $10. If the ball was $5 then the ball plus the bat would be $105 so where the hell is the unaccounted for $5? There are 2 balls? But that is not stated in the question. I’m sticking to $10.

    1. “If the ball was $5 then the ball plus the bat would be $105…”

      Nope, if the ball is $5… the bat is $100 MORE than the ball… so the bat ALONE is $105.

      Both of them together = $5 + $105 = $110, the total in the first part of the question.

      1.  Yes, you’re right of course. It actually just clicked with me and i blame it on tiredness and being appalling at maths but now i can sleep easy. It helped me to visualise the problem in the most basic way possible – start with a block of 5 and 100 MORE blocks than this gives you 105 blocks. So you have 105 blocks plus the 5 gives you 110. If there were 10 to begin with then 100 MORE would give you 110, appending the original 10 would be 120 in total and too many… and relax.

        *goes back to eating the crayons*

  52. Very strong religious person. Answered $5 without missing a beat.

    Frankly, I think that this research tells us more about the state of much modern psychology than it tells us about either religious or non-religious persons.

    1. There are so many different reasons a person can become religious. I can see that maybe religion would be more attractive to certain persons over others, based on thier preferred form of thinking, but there’s nothing to stop an analytical person from believing in religion if they want to.

      1. People also seem to think and speak of ‘religion’ as if it were some unitary phenomenon, when it can take countless different forms, and appeal to individuals for many different and sometimes contrasting reasons.

        1. Yes. Even within the different religious traditions there arise certain recurring threads, like spiritualism, and I think that has to do with the diversity of reasons people come to whatever it is they call religion.

          Conversely, people reject religion for dramatically different reasons.  For example, some atheists may have had negative experiences with organized religion, while others may simply be skeptics.

      2. Generally speaking, a thoroughly analytic person can’t believe anything just because he wants to.  It’s like nails on a blackboard to their brain. 

        1. Even analytic people have the capacity for denial when it suits them.  I think it’s easier to see other people’s delusions than it is our own.

          (edit)Maybe I just feel this way because I have a lot more faith in my intuition than my analysis as I get older.

  53. Those of you thinking you’re bad at math.. you’re not.. you’re bad a linguistics.. completely different.  
    I can also create a linguistics problem that will screw with your math skills by using a comma or not using one.  But, that doesn’t mean you’re bad a math.

    It’s a poor example and doesn’t mean crap as to whether or not your Atheist or not.  The correlation between someone being analytical and religious is “mostly” (The Prince Bride) true but not always absolute.

    1. I’d have thought it was a logical problem, so probably both mathematical and linguistic.

  54. I  think i got it if the baseball and bat = 110
                                                 the bat =  100+ball > ball

    meaning they want you to believe there are 5 lights

  55. what if you answered correctly, but only because you’ve seen this type of problem before and knew the “trick” (i.e. knew to slow down and read the sentence carefully)?

  56. I just talked to Thor. He says if I can beat you into submission with the bat I get both for free. Mead all around!

  57. Atheist, 10. Yes I know 100 – 10 = 90.

    This is one of those things that is going to confuse me the more I think about it.  I guess that means I’m an intuitive thinker and not an analytical.

  58. Just because I have poor reading comprehension doesn’t mean I’m religious.  I read ‘baseball bat’ instead of ‘baseball and bat’

  59. If this happened five years ago, we’d have a rash of new bands called “Ten Dollar Atheists.”

  60. So, erm, being unable to understand addition and subtraction is no longer called F-, but rather solving a problem intuitively? Sorry, solving a problem means getting the answer right. If you don’t get the answer right, you did not solve the problem, and you need to go back to primary school.
    On top of that, what a shocker… people who can think past the first thing that pops into their heads are less religious. Gee whiz.

    1. I think you missed the point of the test.  They’re trying to study how people think, not whether they’re worthy of your admiration.

  61. I have *Faith* that my original answer of $10 is correct and that everyone who answers $5 will go to hell, so now I feel better.

  62. Does this theory hold up in countries where Agnostic^Atheism is the default?

    My intuition is that the question tests lazy thinking. If my parents were atheists and I simply followed their view rather than reasoning it out then my position is basically one of faith rather than analytical superiority.

    (10 dollar agnostic-atheist btw)

    1. Yeah, culture of the sample is huge.  I was also thinking it could vary by the time of day and what the person was doing.  I just don’t think you can generalize.

  63. I think the mistaken answer lies in the way you read the problem – and if you race to the answer, like my atheist mind does, here’s how it reads:

    “Q: If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100” DING DING I KNOW THE ANSWER IT’S $10! NEXT!

  64. There’ve been a whole slew of articles online lately about so-called scientific proofs of how conservatives are stupider and religious people are no good at math or science. It’s all a bunch of BS. 

    BTW, I’m liberal and religious (pago-jewish girl, what can I say?) and I knew that the ball cost $5 right away.

  65. Believer (a Christian of the liberal kind). PhD student in Maths. My immediate answer was “$5”, or more precisely “looks like $10 but it’s not, let’s see how much that is” – based on that combination of intuition and reasoning that is fundamental in producing decent, if not good, maths.

    1. Agnostic, PhD student in computer science with a focus on graph theory.

      My first reaction was, this must be a trick question based on the context.  I should think this through.

  66. My “intuitive” version of working it out from a first glance at the problem went something like this:

    The bat is $100 more, so let’s eliminate that “more” portion from the total (keep it off to the side for later).  That brings it down to $10 which is made up of 2 equal parts bat and ball:  $5 each.  There’s the answer.

    Double check by adding the removed $100 back onto the bat’s $5 making it $105, and the combined total with the $5 ball brings us back to $110.  Woohoo!

  67. Listen: If you can buy a professional baseball league new bat and ball for $110, for GOD’S SAKE, buy them! They’re worth twice that.

  68. If had a gut response to this article without examining the assumptions and statistical likelihood of their stated null hypothesis then you are an idol worshipper.

  69. Holy crap!  Algebraically, then, there *are* no *gods*!  Damn you, Falwell!  You *lied* to me!   :/

  70. there is not enough info to resolve the equation… baseball = x    bat = y  so x+y=110  this is the first equation. The second equation is bat = y is 100 more than ball = z  so it reads y=100+z  So the first equation is like this x+y=110 you know that y=100+z you get this final equation of x+100+z=110  then the solution of the equation is that z=10-x  meaning that the ball cost 10 less than the baseball.  For the math guys translates into this:

    X + Y = 110                                       Y=100 + Z  
    X + 100 + Z = 110
    X + Z = 110 – 100
    X + Z = 10
    Z = 10 – X 

  71. Do not try to price the ball — that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is no ball.

  72. I just want to say, having read through all these comments with much enjoyment, that I love the expression “$10 atheist” and I think we should go forth and popularize that.    

  73. I’d like to know how they tested religious belief. In apparently-similar research on political attitudes, the tests rely strongly on straw men. That may be true here as well. Did they only test for fundamentalism?

    Maybe the creationists made the difference or maybe it was due to the new-age loons…

  74. A) It’s disconcerting to see how many people are this bad at math.   B) The reason this correlates along religious lines is that many people, theists and atheists, will get it wrong, but among those who get it right, the percentage of atheists will be much higher than gen-pop’s percentage of atheists.  If you come up with $100 and $10, that’s understandable initially…but if you check your work to figure the difference at $90 rather than the required $100, you’ll know you were wrong and can recalculate.  Religious people are religious, in part, because they can’t be bothered to match conclusions of different syllogisms against each other for consistency, i.e. checking their work.  C) I love how ‘not thinking very well’ gets translated to ‘intuitive thinking’ to spare the feelings of the not-very-bright.  We’re all unique precious snowflakes, don’t you know?

  75. Wow I got that wrong. And it took me way too long (i.e. a minute) to work out why I was wrong.

    However as complete atheist, I’d like to say that’s becuase of lack of caffeine this early in the morning. Did they take that into account?

  76. I can understand all the folks who attacked the problem too quickly, didn’t read it properly, etc. But to those who claim not to have studied algebra or to suck at maths – seriously? This is not some fancy integration problem, it’s basic numeracy. Most people would be embarrassed to admit they struggle with basic literacy (grammar pedants are happily accepted around here), but not knowing how to handle very basic calculation is okay? How did we end up here? 

  77. The problem lies in language, and not in math or rational thinking. If you turn the problem into algebra, the problem can be worked out differently. But on the face of it, as it is read in English, the answer will come out completely differently.

    For instance: If the question specified that the ball has a value greater than zero, everyone would get the answer correctly.

    Interestingly enough, it all just hit me right now that math professors tend to like playing linguistic games along with their numbers games. If they didn’t, such a problem would be far more specific, or simply presented in number form, instead of being the stupid little unspecific and legalistic question which was originally presented.

  78.  I’m sticking with $10. 
    Bat and Ball is 110.
     x= ball.
     bat and ball is x + 100 = 110.
     x = 110 – 100. 
    x = 10.
    Ball is $10!!!

  79. Being that atheism seems to be so in vogue around here, there are going to be a lot more $10 atheists than the study would suggest. My brother, who has a great love for God and is a Bio major in college, got $5 right away. I, myself as a web developer/programmer and a believer, recognized this as a simple algebra question and guessed $5. But, then again Einstein also believed God exists, so… where does that leave us? Big Bang may have occurred, and if yes, who set it off? Matter, even a single atom must come from something.

    “We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangements of the books, but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.”
    -Albert Einstein

  80. If I answered: “It’s a trick question. She doesn’t have any balls!” then where do this answer put me? A believer, or a non-believer?

  81. I believe in religion and I answered $5 by this calculation:

    x = ball
    y = bat
    x + y = 110
    y = x + 100

    => x + (x + 100) = 110
    => 2x + 100 = 110
    => 2x = 110 – 100
    => 2x = 10
    => x = 10/2
    => x = 5;

  82. Pile of crap – thanks for basically pointing out to all your religious readers (those that are left anyway) that you think they are stupid. Whatever happened to the discussions over correlation =/= cause?

    1. Where on Earth did you read that Mark thinks religious people are stupid, and where on Earth did you read anything about causation?

      Persecution complex?

    2. I don’t see this as claiming intelligence as much as reflection/scepticism versus intuitive approaches. In other words, if a person is distrustful and takes the time to reflect on whether the question is misleading, then the odds are high that said person will tend to be more dogmatic. Note also that there can be dogmatic atheists.

      I also don’t see this as accusing religious leaders of dumbness. Maybe of being pied pipers, but even that is inferred, not implied.

  83. So people with mathematical discapacity have to be religious believers? Come on!!! Knock it of!!!!  If I were to believe that piece of pseudo scientific crap I would be the most gullible chap in this world.

    And I happen to be a mathematicallye challenged atheist.

    1. It’s not the mathematical ability that is being measured but whether the test subject takes the time to reflect upon the question, avoiding the intuitive answer that the question is designed to mislead toward. The whole “hey, wait a minute” is what the testers were looking for.

  84. Logic to explain why this is  crap:

    A is B and B is C.
    A and B are closely related in one field.
    B and C are closely related in one field.
    So… (here comes the sitty part of the reasoning) A and C are closely related in that same field.
    Because it means: “All fields are equal” [tilt] and that’s not so.

    I like chocolate
    Mary likes chocolate
    I like Mary
    Nope: Sex attraction and chocolate are not the same.

    1. Your logic is, well, flawed.

      If A contains B, it had been observed to contain C as well. 
      Further testing reveals that B is a good predictor of having C.

      Nowhere does it claim that B causes C, though it does suggest that having Anti-B decreases the chance of having C. 

      So the example is thus:
      Of a sampling of people, those who like chocolate were 65% likely to like peanuts compared to only 25% of those who were indifferent or hated chocolate. Thus if I like chocolate, it is more likely that I will like peanuts than if I didn’t.

  85. Actually, i think intuitive minds are more down-to-earth in establishing relations between things they see and feel in their immediate and everyday life.

    Analytical minds, on the other hand, are far more likely to be persuaded of their beliefs, either with proof (math) or not (religion). Shit, look at how stratified and well-planned are all the main holy books around the world. If that is not the work of an analytical and constructing mind, i don’t know what is, then.

    Moreover, just see how us “inclined believers” have actually the patience to sit and try to figure out their mistake. Something you can’t do if you’re actually convinced of the assumptions lying “underneath” the problem that is presented to you. Be you a math-head or a priest!

    Just my point of view. I think there’s a “reversal” of values, here :D 
    That, and I suck at math.

  86. Atheist here, first instinct was $10, and it took me a looooong time to get why $10 wasn’t *a* correct answer. I could see immediately how $5 was a solution (when I read someone else’s post), but part of my brain insisted there was nothing wrong with $10 as an answer. 

    I think part of the reason was that I was skim reading the website, not really devoting my brain to the question. Also the words “…and the bat costs $100…” implanted itself in my brain. Fascinating how the mind works!

  87. As with most attempts to self-validate an atheistic world view it requires some level of “bait and switch” logic. The premise to propose a conclusion is switched with a less obvious level of semantics  (ie: presenting an algebraic equation disguised as a simple sum narration.)

    Sounds more to me like these nameless “scientists” have some self-confidence issues they are working through.

  88. All science begins with the fundamental idea “I don’t know, lets find out.” All faith begins with “I know, it is unquestionable.”

    1. All science begins with a teacher saying “I don’t know either, how could we figure it out”

      Alll faith begins with a coward telling you not to ask questions, and excluding you from love if you don’t stop.

    2. Sounds like you are describing yourself – you’ve decided that you know everything about faith and are not willing to question that idea.

      Several religions glorify questioning, and have tremendous faith in the scientific method.  I’ve heard several sermons on the subject.

  89. I just hope that people who read scripture think about it more carefully than they do math problems. 

  90. Womp womp, I got it wrong. Interesting(?) note, I was religious until I was in my early 20s and did not grow up in a particularly religious family.

  91. The problem is that when I am browsing The Internets I am constantly just skimming, doing an incredibly-surface read of stuff, with only about 2 of my billions of brain CPU cores active, and they are only running at about 2%.  Then only pausing when something is deeply interesting  — who or what, exactly, is the I, that I keep referring to — or deeply stimulating — Kate Upton dancing!   :)   Math problems — not so much.

  92. I had to convert the thing to algebra to get the right answer. I really don’t like the question at all and I somehow doubt that it actually “predicts” anything at all.

    For those who are curious (in case someone beat me to it), here’s what I did:

    If a baseball (call it L) and bat (call it T) cost $110 (L+T=110), and the bat costs $100 more than the ball (T=L+100), how much does the ball cost (L=?) ?

    L+T = 110
    L+(L+100) = 110
    2L + 100 = 110
    2L = 110-100
    2L = 10
    2L/2 = 10/2
    L = 5

  93. I find it interesting that this problem (which is a paradox actually), is being used to prove a question of belief.  The paradox lies in this: $100 + $10 = $110, you can take that to the bank; the algebra version simply proves that a closed system (the langue of mathematics) can make sense if you stick to the rules (of that system) which is exactly  what makes religion work! 

    So in a sense it’s more about whether you believe what is real/tangible (110 oranges minus 10 oranges equals the number of oranges a bank teller working at a bank that takes fruit would agree is your total deposit), against what is really more of a parlor trick than a proof that the universe acts a certain way.  

    This is why statistics can be manipulated, and why the .0001% has most of the trading tokens… think Three Card Monty.  

    So these researchers haven’t proved anything, except that some people trust their eyes and their gut over a system of scrutiny that has some interesting flaws that can be proved through logic.  Or possibly that some people are just not familiar with the language of algebra to see any other solution than the tangible one.   

    My conclusion?  Perdiddle!

  94. It’s not a math problem, it’s a semantic analysis.  Also, calling people religious or non-religious or broadly applying a label you invented over the ability of your audience to pay precise attention to the words you say makes you an asshole.

  95. what if i answered “i don’t know”
    as others have pointed out, it seems more like a test as to whether one remembers elementary algebraic word problems, which is why i question their correlation. that being said, the question i have, and i am directing this to the psychologists who ran the study, since i question their proposed results, does that make me more likely to be an atheist or a person of faith?   please do respond based only on the information i have provided. 

  96. So weird.  Even after doing the equations in two variables $5 still doesn’t FEEL right. ;)

  97. I guess the best conclusion we can make from this is that when you read something that starts with “Scientists claim….” you know it is probably nonsense. 

  98. I think the only thing his proves is that math nerds are pedantic jackasses.  

    I initially answered “$10”, saw that the answer is apparently “$5 for the ball” and now insist that someone prove to me a that it can’t be “anywhere between $0.01 and $9.99 for the ball since the bat is then definitely $100 MORE than the ball which surely could be priced at anything between $0.01 or $9.99.” and until someone does prove this to me without me wanting to punch their lights out for being pedantic language/math nerds, they (the math nerds), the religious nutters, the militant atheists, the language nerds, and basically everyone else can just piss off.

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