Religion as a Testing Ground for Cognitive Science


  • Andrew Shtulman Occidental College



Intuitive dualism, God concepts, Afterlife beliefs, Folk theories, Religious cognition


Research at the intersection of cognitive science and religion can illuminate the cognitive underpinnings of religious thought and behavior, as White (2021) persuasively demonstrates in her comprehensive synthesis of CSR research, but this research can also constrain broader theories of cognition. Here, I examine CSR research relevant to a prominent theory of how we represent minds and bodies: intuitive dualism. This theory, which posits that folk psychology and folk physics are not initially integrated in our representations of intentional agents, makes predictions about god concepts and afterlife beliefs that are not supported by empirical research on these topics. Rather, CSR research suggests that dualism varies by culture and context and must be learned. This case study highlights the reciprocal relation between cognitive science and the study of religion and points to the mutual benefits of their integration.


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How to Cite

Shtulman, A. . (2022). Religion as a Testing Ground for Cognitive Science. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 7(2), 200–212.



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