Research Overview

My research approaches 'religions' as dynamic culturally-evolved systems of beliefs, practices and experiences that have adaptive consequences on human psychology and behaviour. 

 
 Sekishoin, Koyasan, Japan

Sekishoin, Koyasan, Japan

Reasoning about Supernatural Minds


Capacities for mentalizing or thinking about ‘ordinary’ human minds is linked to belief in supernatural agents, but the exact nature of this relationship remains unclear. To unpack this relationship, my research has sought to clarify when and how everyday social cognitive processes predict belief and the ways in which mentalizing is employed across different religious contexts.

Collaborators:
Aiyana Willard
Ben Purzycki
Rita McNamara
Ara Norenzayan

 Masada, Israel

Masada, Israel

Eco-spirituality and Sacred Values

'Religion' is often invoked to help coordinate the actions of groups in face of collective problems. My research explores ways in which motivating behaviours about pressing (but secular) concerns about the degradation of the environment can benefit from some religious-like zeal.  

Collaborators:
Catherine Li
Ara Norenzayan

 Whistler, Canada

Whistler, Canada

Awe and self-transcendent experiences 

Awe-experiences, religious or secular, can be life changing. My research explores the cognitive mechanisms by which awe fosters a sense that something 'meaningful' has been experienced. 

Collaborators:
Steven Heine

 

 Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

Communal Rituals

Communal rituals are ubiquitous across cultures. My research demonstrates how a reoccurring feature of communal rituals - behavioral synchrony - helps coordinate the bodies and the mental states of ritual actors.

Collaborators:
Susan Birch
Ara Norenzayan

 Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada

Development of Social Cognition

I am broadly interested in the development of social cognition and have explored how and when children employ their growing capacities for mentalizing to learn from and compete with other individuals, and how they make sense of non-human minds.

Collaborators:
Rachel Severson
Susan Birch
Myriam Juda
Joe Henrich