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