The Missing Cultural Lens in the Cognitive Science of Religion


  • Ronald Fischer Institute D’Or for Research & Teaching



cultural bias, cultural evolution, functional equivalence, personality, cognition


White’s recent book An Introduction to the Cognitive Science of Religion provides a state-of-the-art review of the field, geared toward students and readers interested in learning more about the cognitive underpinnings of religion. This commentary focuses on the missing cultural lens in the Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) in general, as evidenced by White’s summary of relevant theories and methods. I reflect on the grounding of the field in a specific version of evolutionary psychology which tends to downplay the role of culture for human behavior. The concept of functional equivalence from the cultural psychology toolkit may help researchers think through the Tinbergian questions within each cultural context. I then provide a basic bibliometric study of the authors cited within the book. Similar to the larger field of psychology, there is a distinct cultural bias in the contributors to the field. This bias is probably even more detrimental to this subject area because researchers are located mainly within one religious (Christian) tradition. It is important to overcome imposed etic perspectives and more carefully question assumptions, theories, and methods to evaluate whether a Christian interpretation is cast onto religious phenomena more generally. Finally, I provide two scientific and one moral reason why the CSR has much to gain from embracing cultural dynamics in its theorizing and scientific practice.

Author Biography

Ronald Fischer, Institute D’Or for Research & Teaching

Institute D’Or for Research & Teaching, Brazil/Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


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How to Cite

Fischer, R. . (2022). The Missing Cultural Lens in the Cognitive Science of Religion. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 7(2), 178–189.



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