Religion and Agency


  • Ryan McKay ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, and Royal Holloway, London




cognitive science of religion, agency detection, HADD, error management

Author Biography

Ryan McKay, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, and Royal Holloway, London

Ryan McKay is the co-editor of the Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion.


Barrett, J. L. 2000. “Exploring the natural foundations of religion.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4, 29-34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1364-6613(99)01419-9

———. 2004. “Why Would Anyone Believe in God?” Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.

———. 2012. Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Beliefs. New York: The Free Press.

———. and J. A. Lanman. 2008. “The science of religious beliefs.” Religion 38(2): 109–124. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.religion.2008.01.007

Guthrie, S. E. 1980. “A cognitive theory of religion.” Current Anthropology 21(2): 181–203.

———. 1993. Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haselton, M. G. 2003. “The sexual overperception bias: Evidence of a systematic bias in men from a survey of naturally occurring events.” Journal of Research in Personality 37(1): 34–47. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00529-9

———. and D. M. Buss. 2000. “Error management theory: A new perspective on biases in cross-sex mind reading.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78(1): 81–91. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.78.1.81

———. and D. Nettle. 2006. “The paranoid optimist: an integrative evolutionary model of cognitive biases.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 10(1): 47–66. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr1001_3

Johnson, D. D. P., D. T. Blumstein, J. H. Fowler and M. G. Haselton. 2013. “The evolution of error: Error management, cognitive constraints, and adaptive decision-making biases.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 28(8): 474–481. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2013.05.014

Ma-Kellams, C. 2015. “When perceiving the supernatural changes the natural: Religion and agency detection.” Journal of Cognition and Culture 15: 337–343. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/15685373-12342154

McKay, R. and C. Efferson. 2010. “The subtleties of error management.” Evolution and Human Behavior 31: 309–319.

———. and H. Whitehouse. 2015. “Religion and morality.” Psychological Bulletin 141(2): 447–473. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038455

Morris, P. H., J. White, E. R. Morrison and K. Fisher. 2013. “High heels as supernormal stimuli: How wearing high heels affects judgements of female attractiveness.” Evolution and Human Behavior 34(3): 176–181. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2012.11.006

Perilloux, C. and R. Kurzban. 2015. “Do men overperceive women’s sexual interest?” Psychological Science 26(1): 70–77. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797614555727

Riekki, T., M. Lindeman, M. Aleneff, A. Halme and A. Nuortimo. 2013. “Paranormal and religious believers are more prone to illusory face perception than skeptics and non-believers.” Applied Cognitive Psychology 27(2): 150–155. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/acp.2874

van Elk, M. 2013. “Paranormal believers are more prone to illusory agency detection than skeptics.” Consciousness and Cognition 22(3): 1041–1046. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2013.07.004

———., B. Rutjens, J.van der Pligt and F. van Harreveld. In press. “Priming of supernatural agent concepts and agency detection.” Religion, Brain and Behavior. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2153599X.2014.933444

Willard, A. K., and A. Norenzayan. 2013. “Cognitive biases explain religious belief, paranormal belief, and belief in life’s purpose.” Cognition 129(2): 379–391. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2013.07.016




How to Cite

McKay, R. (2015). Editorial: Religion and Agency. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 2(2), 93–96. https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.v2i2.28574