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Abstract

In both natural and religious thinking, people have ntultiple versions of the same concepts that may be contradictory. In the domain of religious concepts, these ntultiple levels of representation in single individuals may be termed "Theological Correctness." Versions of religioiis concepts range front fairly simple or concrete to very complex and abstract. Selection of the, concept to be used in any given context is largely dependent on the cognitive processing demands of the task. In tasks in which there is great derrtand to draw quick and rich inferences, a basic concept comprised largely of intuitive knowledge, is used. In tasks in which there is less demand, as when one is slowly and carefully riflecting on one's knowledge, more complicated, intuition violating theoretical concepts may be drawn upon. In the domain of religious concepts these concepts closely match traditional theology and so may be termed theological concepts. Implications for data gathering and theorizing in the study of religion are discussed. Finally, these observations suggest the. importance of insights from cognitive sciertce, for the study of religion.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
In: Religion as a Human Capacity

Abstract

What influences people’s appreciation of works of art? In this paper, we provide a new cognitive approach to this big question, and the first empirical results in support of it. As a work of art typically does not activate intuitive cognition for functional artefacts, it is represented as an instance of non-verbal symbolic communication. By application of Sperber and Wilson’s (1986/1995) Relevance Theory of communication, we hypothesize that understanding the artist’s intention plays a crucial role in intuitive art appreciation judgements. About 60 works of fine art, representing a wide range of periods, genres and styles, were selected in the permanent exhibitions at Tate Britain in London, and rated by more than 500 visitors for goodness and understanding of the artist’s intention. Results suggest that works of art whose artist’s intention is easy to understand tend to be preferred over those with more obscure intentions, even when controlling for familiarity effects.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

Shook (2017) argues that if god-beliefs are “innate,” one is obligated to be skeptical about them by virtue of their mutually incompatible plurality and nativist origin. Second, Shook suggests that even if god-beliefs are not innate, it is still epistemically vicious to believe in gods. Shook also raises concerns about using theology to motivate or interpret scientific inquiry. This response essay clarifies the character of the theories offered in the cognitive science of religion (csr), including rejecting that innateness of god-beliefs is a common view. Shook’s primary claims are then evaluated with the conclusion that they are not adequately argued or substantiated.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Is reasoning about religious ritual tethered to ordinary, nonreligious human reasoning about actions? E. Thomas Lawson and Robert N. McCauley’s ritual form hypothesis (rfh) constitutes a cognitive approach to religious ritual – an explanatory theory that suggests people use ordinary human cognition to make specific predictions about ritual properties, relatively independent of cultural or religious particulars. Few studies assess the credibility of rfh and further evidence is needed to generalize its predictions across cultures. Towards this end, we assessed culturally Chinese “special patient” rituals in Singapore. Our findings strongly support rfh predictions for special patient ritual repeatability, reversibility, sensory pageantry and emotionality.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

If “Big Gods” evolved in part because of their ability to morally regulate groups of people who cannot count on kin or reciprocal altruism to get along (Norenzayan, 2013), then powerful gods would tend to be good gods. If the mechanism for this cooperation is some kind of fear of supernatural punishment (Johnson & Bering, 2006), then we may expect that mighty gods tend to be punishing gods. The present study is a statistical analysis of superhuman being concepts from 20 countries on five continents to explore whether the goodness of a god is related to its mightiness. Gods that looked more like the God of classical theism and gods that were low in anthropomorphism were more likely to be regarded as morally good and to be the target of religious practices. Mighty gods were not, however, especially likely to punish or to be a “high god.”

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

part of a larger study on ‘spiritual fruit formation’ in adolescents, teenaged participants in Young Life outreach “camping” programs completed surveys immediately before and immediately after the camping experience. Participants were American teens attending standard Young Life camps in the United States (Lake Champion, New York and Sharp Top Cove, Georgia) in summer 2007 and teens from international schools from six European nations (primarily American and British by birth) attending a service-oriented Young Life camp in Kovachevzi, Bulgaria, spring 2007. The outreach components of both types of camps (including talks, small group discussions, special music, games and skits) were similar as they were conducted by American Young Life program staff. Nevertheless, personality inventories revealed that a different profile of teen was more likely to ‘make a commitment to God’ during the Young Life service trip as compared with the standard Young Life camp. ‘Making a decision’ at standard Young Life camps was predicted by high extroversion and high emotional instability; whereas those teens that made a decision during the service trip were high on introversion and intellectual curiosity. Results suggest that different types of outreach camping experiences may be better at preparing different types of kids to respond positively to the Gospel message.

In: Journal of Youth and Theology

Abstract

Are the places that superhuman beings purportedly act and dwell randomly or arbitrarily distributed? Inspired by theoretical work in cognitive science of religion, descriptions of superhuman beings (e.g., ancestors, demons, ghosts, gods, spirits) were solicited from informants in 20 countries on five continents, resulting in 108 usable descriptions, including information about these beings’ properties, their dwelling location, and whether they were the target of rituals. Whether superhuman beings are the subject of religious and ritual practices appeared to co-vary in relation to both features of physical geography and cognitive factors. Good gods were more likely the focus of religious practices than evil gods, and where the gods are thought to dwell mattered. If either the being was thought to dwell in a dangerous place or a resource rich place, it was more likely to have practices directed at it.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture