The (possible) Cognitive Naturalness of Witchcraft Beliefs: An Exploration of the Existing Literature

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Cross-culturally, misfortune is often attributed to witchcraft despite the high human and social costs of these beliefs. The evolved cognitive features that are often used to explain religion more broadly, in combination with threat perception and coalitional psychology, may help explain why these particular supernatural beliefs are so prevalent. Witches are minimally counter intuitive, agentic, and build upon intuitive understandings of ritual efficacy. Witchcraft beliefs may gain traction in threatening contexts and because they are threatening themselves, while simultaneously activating coalitional reasoning systems that make rejection of the idea costly. This article draws possible connections between these cognitive and environmental features with an eye toward future empirical examination.



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