Are there studies that investigate the heritability of "believing in supernatural" (or related concepts)?

  • $\begingroup$ the perception of paranormal perception can be due to some brain development disorders. (At least I know that they arise because of lesions in certain areas). In such cases if there is a gene involved, these traits may be heritable. $\endgroup$
    Jun 3, 2014 at 14:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ sorry the perception got repeated.. another sort of impairment of brain function :P $\endgroup$
    Jun 3, 2014 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ How do you define a measurable scale for believing in supernatural things? $\endgroup$
    – Mys_721tx
    Jun 4, 2014 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ Oh there are some tests for self transcendence.. not for religious beliefs though.. $\endgroup$
    Jun 4, 2014 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ See this related CogSci question, but the answer cites the same references as below. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Jun 4, 2014 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


There are several twin studies showing, that the tendency to be religious has a genetic component. Not which religion you choose, because that is a cultural thing, but how serious you are abot it. I am lazy for a detailed report, but this blog can lead you to the studies: http://www.scilogs.eu/en/blog/biology-of-religion/2011-03-12/religiosity-genes-again-confirmed-by-another-twin-study

Also this article: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-08/what-twins-reveal-about-god-gene

EDIT after a few years - I was informed one link is broken and the other contains no citation. So I checked for new material today and wikipedia has a cool passage how genes and environment affect religion. Wikipedia saves the old version, so this is from March 8 2018, article Religiosity.

" The contributions of genes and environment to religiosity have been quantified in studies of twins (Bouchard et al., 1999; Kirk et al., 1999) and sociological studies of welfare, availability, and legal regulations [15] (state religions, etc.).

Koenig et al. (2005) report that the contribution of genes to variation in religiosity (called heritability) increases from 12% to 44% and the contribution of shared (family) effects decreases from 56% to 18% between adolescence and adulthood.[16] "

15 Nolan, P., & Lenski, G. E. (2010). Human societies: Introduction to macrosociology. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publisher.

16 L. B. Koenig, M. McGue, R. F. Krueger and T. J. Bouchard, Jr. (2005). Genetic and environmental influences on religiousness: findings for retrospective and current religiousness ratings. Journal of Personality, 73, 471-88


  • $\begingroup$ Sadly the first link is now broken (and the second link does not contain any reference to peer-reviewed paper). This is a common issue with referring to popular science articles. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Mar 26, 2017 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ You updated your question shortly after I updated my answer. Did you feel misunderstood by my update ? $\endgroup$
    – Barbara
    Mar 8, 2018 at 10:44

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