FSD3259 Understanding People and Understanding Things 2013

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  • Lindeman, Marjaana (University of Helsinki. Department of Psychology and Logopedics)
  • Svedholm-Häkkinen, Annika (University of Helsinki. Department of Psychology and Logopedics)
  • Riekki, Tapani (University of Helsinki. Department of Psychology and Logopedics)


beliefs, cognitive processes, emotional states, magic, perception, personality, personality traits, problem solving, reasoning, social interaction, supernatural

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The psychological study charted beliefs, thinking and reasoning. It surveyed, among others, the respondents' religiosity, spatial awareness, capacity for empathy, ability to understand other people and the inanimate nature, as well as their intuitive, reflective and flexible thinking. Some of the batteries of questions included standardised measures and some were developed by the researchers. The data were collected as part of a project funded by the Academy of Finland (project number 266573). The goal of the project was to examine reasoning skills, intuitive skills in psychology and physics and the relationship of these skills with supernatural beliefs. A follow-up data collection from the same respondents was conducted in 2015 and it resulted in 420 responses. This follow-up dataset is also available at FSD: FSD3260 Understanding People and Understanding Things 2013 and 2015.

The respondents were first asked about what their and their parents' jobs were or had been like, how empathetic they were (using the Short Empathy Quotient) and whether they agreed with some teleological explanations of how the natural world works (e.g. "Moss forms on rocks to slow down soil erosion"). Autistic traits were charted using the Autism Spectrum Quotient Short Form. Intuitive thinking was surveyed, and the respondents were presented five mental rotation tasks.

The respondents' gender roles were examined (Sex Role Inventory) as well as their drive to analyse and explore systems (Short Systemizing Quotient). Paranormal and magical beliefs (e.g. telepathy, witchcraft, angels, miracles) were surveyed. The respondents were presented the Revised Eyes Test where they were requested to assess the emotional states of persons based on the images of their eyes. They were also presented questions and statements relating to social intelligence (Tromsø Social Intelligence Scale) and asked whether they thought certain fictional events presented had a special purpose or significance. Leisure time activities and interpersonal relationships (Friendship Scale) were charted.

The respondents were asked whether they liked observing the order or rules of different things and whether they kept things in good order. They were presented items from the Physical Prediction Questionnaire, where they were asked to predict the direction a lever would move in response to a movement of a connected lever. A number of statements were also presented, and the respondents were asked to assess whether they were literal or metaphorical (e.g. "The house knows its history", "Flowing water is a liquid"). The tendency to think in an intuitive or analytical manner was charted using selected items from the Rational-Experiential Inventory. Schizotypal traits were surveyed (Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire Brief).

The Cognitive Reflection Test was used to measure cognitive processing. Finally, the respondents were presented a pictorial empathy test and map tasks designed by the researcher. The former charted whether certain images evoked emotions in the respondents and the latter asked them to place an image of a city on a map.

Background variables included, among others, age, gender, religious denomination, handedness, education, economic activity, place of study, field of study or work, and the most recent grade in mathematics and physics.

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