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Overview

Using the tools of scientific inquiry to investigate the nature of religious belief and experience.

This strategic priority concerns basic scientific research into the nature of cognitive and affective processes and content involved in beliefs, experiences, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to God and other supernatural agents. Capitalizing on the expertise of researchers from across the cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences, our focus will be on four priorities:

  • Measurement. How can we improve and expand the methodological toolbox available for measuring religious cognition? What is the nature of religious belief and how best should it be measured? How can propositional and experiential religious cognition be distinguished?
  • Experiences of the divine. How can we develop a more coherent theoretical account of experiences deemed religious, spiritual, supernatural, paranormal, and so on? What is the nature of such experiences, and what causes them?
  • Religious and spiritual development. How do mechanisms of social learning interact with universal cognitive capacities to support the acquisition of religious beliefs? How are religious beliefs transmitted and revised across the lifespan?
  • Capacity building. We additionally seek to strengthen the research infrastructure for scientific study of religion, including increasing capacity for longitudinal research, cross-cultural research, the integration of neuroscientific methods, and support for scholars in non-Western countries.

Featured Grants

Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Kathleen Corriveau, Paul Harris
Grantee(s): Trustees of Boston University
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Crystal Park,
Grantee(s): University of Connecticut
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Tanya Luhrmann
Grantee(s): Stanford University