Journal Article

How cultural learning and cognitive biases shape religious beliefs


What explains the ubiquity and diversity of religions around the world? Widespread cognitive tendencies, including mentalizing and intuitive thinking, offer part of the explanation for recurrent features of religion, and individual differences in religious commitments. However, vast diversity in religious beliefs points to the importance of the cultural context in which religious beliefs are transmitted. Cultural evolutionary theory provides the basis of a unified explanation for how cognition and culture interact to shape religious beliefs, in ways that are uniquely adapted to local ecological pressures. These insights lay the groundwork for future research regarding how cultural learning interacts with other evolved aspects of human psychology to generate the recurrent and the diverse forms of religious commitments observed around the world.

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White, Cindel J.M.
Baimel, Adam
Norenzayan, Ara

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-08-13

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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