David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Cognitive Science 36 (5):846-869 (2012)
Current evolutionary and cognitive theories of religion posit that supernatural agent concepts emerge from cognitive systems such as theory of mind and social cognition. Some argue that these concepts evolved to maintain social order by minimizing antisocial behavior. If these theories are correct, then people should process information about supernatural agents’ socially strategic knowledge more quickly than non-strategic knowledge. Furthermore, agents’ knowledge of immoral and uncooperative social behaviors should be especially accessible to people. To examine these hypotheses, we measured response-times to questions about the knowledge attributed to four different agents—God, Santa Claus, a fictional surveillance government, and omniscient but non-interfering aliens—that vary in their omniscience, moral concern, ability to punish, and how supernatural they are. As anticipated, participants respond more quickly to questions about agents’ socially strategic knowledge than non-strategic knowledge, but only when agents are able to punish.
|Keywords||Supernatural agents Socially strategic information Cognitive science of religion Theory of mind Supernatural punishment|
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Citations of this work BETA
Benjamin Grant Purzycki (2013). The Minds of Gods: A Comparative Study of Supernatural Agency. Cognition 129 (1):163-179.
Marjaana Lindeman, Annika M. Svedholm-Häkkinen & Jari Lipsanen (2015). Ontological Confusions but Not Mentalizing Abilities Predict Religious Belief, Paranormal Belief, and Belief in Supernatural Purpose. Cognition 134:63-76.
Andrew Shtulman & Marjaana Lindeman (2015). Attributes of God: Conceptual Foundations of a Foundational Belief. Cognitive Science 39 (7).
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