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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References found in this work BETA
John E. Abbruzzese (1997). The Coherence of Omniscience: A Defense. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 41 (1):25-34.
Scott Atran & Ara Norenzayan (2004). Religion's Evolutionary Landscape: Counterintuition, Commitment, Compassion, Communion. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):713-730.
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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.
Larisa Heiphetz, Jonathan D. Lane, Adam Waytz & Liane L. Young (2015). How Children and Adults Represent God's Mind. Cognitive Science 39 (6):n/a-n/a.
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