Why “Cognition and Religion”?

In recent decades, some of the best work on the origins of religion deal with the cognitive architecture which supports supernatural beliefs.  Most researchers in this area think that supernatural or religious thinking naturally arises from the workings of the brain-mind.  Seen from this perspective, religion is a “byproduct” of normal cognition.  There was not, in other words, any direct selection pressure for something akin to a supernatural or religious brain module.  Pascal Boyer and Scott Atran are both well known for their work in this area, and byproduct theories-research have their own Category in this blog.  There is, however, a substantial body of additional research — emanating primarily from psychology and neuroscience — that is relevant to supernatural modes of thought.  This research includes cause-effect sequencing, pattern imposition, commonsense dualism, agency attribution, and theory of mind.  This Category will address these types of studies, including those finding that children are natural theists.

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