Religious Orthodoxy and the Complexity of Thought about Religious and Nonreligious Issues


  • This research was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Bruce Hunsberger, Michael Pratt, and S. Mark Pancer. The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

and requests for reprints should be sent to S. Mark Pancer, Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5.


Two studies examined the relationship between religious orthodoxy and the complexity of thinking about religious and nonreligious issues. In both studies, participants who were high or low in religious orthodoxy wrote a paragraph outlining their thoughts about a religious issue (life after death in Study 1; existence of God in Study 2) and/or a nonreligious issue (capital punishment in Study 1; free trade between Canada and the U.S. in Study 2). The results of both studies indicated that participants who were high in religious orthodoxy were less complex in their thinking about religious issues than those low in religious orthodoxy, but did not differ in the complexity of their thinking about nonreligious issues. These results do not support the notion that orthodoxly religious individuals are dispositionally inclined to think in simpler or more rigid ways overall, but they do suggest a tendency to think less complexly about religious issues.