NONRELIGIOUS & “Spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) are more likely to hold paranormal beliefs and an experiential relationship w/ supernatural

by Willard AK1, Norenzayan A2. Cognition. 2017.


The spiritual but not religious (SBNR) are a growing population in secularizing societies. Yet, we know little about the underlying psychology of this group or their belief profile. Based on an individual difference approach, we address this knowledge gap by comparing SBNR with religious and non-religious participants. In a sample of Americans (n=1013), we find that the SBNR differ from non-religious and religious participants in a number of ways. SBNR participants are more likely to hold paranormal beliefs and to have an experiential relationship to the supernatural (e.g. have mystical experiences and feelings of universal connectedness), but are similar to religious participants in their profile of cognitive biases. SBNR participants score higher on measures of schizotypy than the religious or non-religious. Reported conversions from one group (religious, SBNR, or non-religious) to another since childhood corresponds with predictable differences in cognitive biases, with dualism predicting conversion to religion and schizotypy predicting conversion to SBNR.

Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier B.V.


28544975 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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by Willard AK1, Norenzayan A2.

Author information

  • 1The University of Texas at Austin, United States. Electronic address: aiyana.willard.
  • 2The University of British Columbia, Canada.


Cognition. 2017 May 22;165:137-146. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2017.05.018. [Epub ahead of print]

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