Minimal-Counterintuitiveness Revisited

Effects of cultural and ontological violations on concept memorability


  • Michaela Porubanova-Norquist LEVYNA Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion
  • Daniel Joel Shaw Social and Behavioural Neuroscience Research Group, CEITEC - Central European Institute of Technology, Masaryk University
  • Dimitris Xygalatas LEVYNA Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion



concept memory, cultural versus ontological expectations


Many religious ideas have attributes that violate our expectations about the state of the natural world. It has been argued that minimal counter-intuitiveness (MCI), defined as a mild violation of innate (ontological) expectations, makes such ideas memorable and prone to cultural transmission. Empirical studies have examined memory for concepts that violate innate ontological expectations; however memorability of ideas that defy cultural or learned expectations have been (with few exceptions) overlooked. In our study, we compared memory for ideas that violate intuitive ontologies, learned expectations, and everyday, intuitive ideas. We discuss the mnemonic advantage of minimally counterintuitive ideas in terms of a combination of associative strength and bizarreness.


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How to Cite

Porubanova-Norquist, M., Shaw, D. J., & Xygalatas, D. (2014). Minimal-Counterintuitiveness Revisited: Effects of cultural and ontological violations on concept memorability. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 1(2), 181–192.