An important component of religious cognition is relational theistic cognition, or the ways in which people relate to supernatural agents. Investigation of the neural mediation of, and constraints on, theistic relational cognition will illuminate its parameters, properties, and effects. In this RFP project, we invite applications targeting the neural basis of social relational religious beliefs compared to other forms of belief, the neural implementation and modulation of internal working models of a relationship with God, cognitive representations of a relationship to God, the neural basis of loss, acquisition, and enhancement of access to relational representations of God, and the neural representation of the motivating factors underlying the choice and need for relational religious beliefs and a commitment to God. We will lead a new RFP external (to JTF) grant competition that will solicit, select, and support several systematic research programs in the emerging field of the cognitive neuroscience of religious cognition (CNRC) with a focus on relational theistic cognition. The entire project will be co-led by Drs. Grafman (Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and Northwestern University) and McNamara (Northcentral University/NCU). Within this Project Proposal, we have articulated a program of research on the neural basis of attachment to supernatural agents that the Principal Investigators will carry out in conjunction with the RFP-based funded proposals. The overarching ambition of this Project is to gain a better understanding of the neural mediation of relational theistic belief as well as the brain bases of Religious Cognition more generally, to influence the greater scientific community to join us in this pursuit as we aspire to place the neuroscientific study of religious cognition on a firm scientific foundation.
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