Abstract

Forty-nine members of the Oxford public took part in a controlled free-recall experiment, the first 'minimal counterintuitiveness theory' study to control concept inferential potential and participant selective-attention timing. Recall of counterintuitive ideas (MCI) was compared with recall of ideas expressing necessary epistemic incongruence (i.e., analytically false), analytically true ideas, and ordinary control ideas. The items expressing necessary epistemic incongruence had better recall than other items. MCI items had a mnemonic advantage over intuitive templates for participants twenty-five years and younger after a one-week delay, but MCI items did not have an advantage for older participants. There was no mnemonic advantage for immediate recall of MCI items in any age group. Analyses suggest this general failure to replicate previously found mnemonic advantages may have been due to restricting the items' inferential potential.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

The typical formulation of Pascal Boyer’s counterintuitiveness theory asserts that concepts violating intuitive ontological-category structures are more memorable. However, Boyer’s (2001) original claim centred on the transmission advantages of counter-ontological representations that were cultural. Nevertheless, subsequent studies focused on the recall of novel counterintuitive representations, and an “alternative account” of the memorability of counterintuitive concepts has emerged resembling the distinctiveness effect. Yet, experimental evidence shows that familiar concepts have memorability advantages over novel ones. This investigation of these pan-cultural transmission biases used a large age-representative sample (13–86 years; N = 365) in the uk and China. Results were analysed by hlm, with familiarity, counterintuitiveness, and delay as 2-level fixed factors, and age as a covariate. No support was revealed for the typical formulation of the hypothesis — however, a significant age effect and interaction of familiarity × counterintuitiveness were found.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

The typical formulation of Pascal Boyer’s counterintuitiveness theory asserts that concepts violating intuitive ontological-category structures are more memorable. However, Boyer’s (2001) original claim centered on the transmission advantages of counter-ontological representations that were cultural. Nevertheless, subsequent studies focused on the recall of novel counterintuitive representations, and an “alternative account” of the memorability of counterintuitive concepts has emerged resembling the distinctiveness effect (Upal, 2010). Yet, experimental evidence shows that familiar concepts have memorability advantages over novel ones (Anaki & Bentin, 2009; Ingram, Mickes, & Wixted, 2011). This investigation of these pan-cultural transmission biases used a large age-representative sample (13–86 years; N = 365) in the uk and China. Results were analyzed by hlm, with familiarity, counterintuitiveness, and delay as 2-level fixed factors, and age as a covariate. No support was revealed for the typical formulation of the hypothesis — however, a significant age effect and interaction of familiarity x counterintuitiveness were found.

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture

Abstract

Supernatural agent concepts are regarded as a defining trait of religion. The interaction of the minimally counterintuitive (MCI) mnemonic effect and the hypersensitive agency detection device (HADD) may be employed to explain the universal presence of concepts of gods and deities. Using the measure of free-recall, a broad model of cultural transmission investigated this pan-cultural transmission bias with a large age-representative sample (3 to 86 years; N = 764) in UK and China. Results were analyzed by four-way mixed ANOVA considering counterintuitiveness, familiarity, ontological category, and delay, and with age as a covariate. A significant interaction of counterintuitiveness × HADD was found for both UK and China samples. These findings support assertions that supernatural agent concepts are more easily transmitted than other concepts because the present study finds that concepts similar to supernatural agents were more readily recalled.

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