Frontiers in the Cognitive Science of Religion (p)

Frontiers in the Cognitive Science of Religion (p) - New...

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1 New Frontiers in the Cognitive Science of Religion by Robert N. McCauley Harvey Whitehouse Emory University Queen’s University Belfast The papers in this issue arose from a conference on the Psychological and Cognitive Foundations of Religiosity that took place at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) in August, 2003. 1 This conference brought together scholars from ten nations and six disciplines (psychology, anthropology, religious studies, biology, philosophy, and cognitive science) to explore new developments at the interface of the cognitive sciences and religion. All four of these papers examine the promise of comparatively new theoretical proposals and empirical findings within the cognitive sciences for making sense of various sorts of religious phenomena. Although the theories in these papers were developed independently of the literature in the cognitive science of religion that has emerged over the past couple of decades, each notes suggestive connections with that body of work. Cognitive scientists of religion have advanced assorted theories about an array of different religious phenomena. Still, all champion the promise of the methods and findings of the cognitive sciences for enhancing our understanding of those phenomena and maintain that religious thought and action turn overwhelmingly on harnessing perfectly ordinary forms of cognition available to all normally equipped human beings. The earliest works in this field looked to theoretical strategies from the various cognitive sciences, including linguistics (Lawson and McCauley 1990), evolutionary psychology (Boyer 1992, 1994), and cognitive psychology (Guthrie 1980; Whitehouse 1992, 1995), in order to formulate new theories about a wide range of religious materials, including religious ritual, religious representations, and modes of religiosity. Works exploring the consequences of those theories and advancing additional cognitive theories about these and other religious phenomena soon followed. Examples of the former include experimental work in psychology (Barrett, Richert, and Driesenga, 2001; Bering and Bjorklund [in press]) and anthropology (Malley and Barrett 2003) as well as attempts to test these theories cross-culturally (Abbink 1995; Whitehouse and Laidlaw 2004) and historically (Vial 2004;Whitehouse and Martin 2004). Such work has generated new proposals about the nature of ritual transmission (Barth 2002; Bloch 2004), sacred texts (Pyysiäinen 1999, 2004; Malley 2004), the connections between religion and morality (Hinde 1999; Boyer 2001), and the character of religious belief and theology (Barrett 2004; Slone 2004). Early work in the cognitive science of religion aimed to redress an imbalance in religious studies -- an imbalance that favored the particular over the general and the interpretive over the explanatory (e.g., Lawson and McCauley 1993). Whether this outpouring of new research in the cognitive science of religion is sufficient to right that imbalance will turn, finally, on the level of
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This note was uploaded on 03/06/2011 for the course PSYCH 212 taught by Professor Dansullivan during the Spring '11 term at NYU.

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Frontiers in the Cognitive Science of Religion (p) - New...

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