- “Magical Thinking in Individuals With High Polygenic Risk for Schizophrenia but No Non-affective Psychoses—a General Population Study”, Saarinen et al 2022
- “Same-sex Competition and Sexual Conflict Expressed through Witchcraft Accusations”, Peacey et al 2022
- “Magical Contagion and Commemorative Plaques: Effects of Celebrity Occupancy on Property Values”, Ayton et al 2022
- “Dream Interpretation from a Cognitive and Cultural Evolutionary Perspective: The Case of Oneiromancy in Traditional China”, Hong 2022
- “Populist Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, News Credibility, Bullshit Receptivity, and Paranormal Belief”, Prooijen et al 2022
- “Can Schools Change Religious Attitudes? Evidence from German State Reforms of Compulsory Religious Education”, Arold et al 2022-page-3
- “Believers in Pseudoscience Present Lower Evidential Criteria”, Rodríguez-Ferreiro & Barberia 2021
- “The Negative Religiousness-IQ Nexus Is a Jensen Effect on Individual-Level Data: A Refutation of Dutton Et Al 2019’s ‘The Myth of the Stupid Believer’”, Dutton & Kirkegaard 2021
- “Intuitive Dualism and Afterlife Beliefs: A Cross-Cultural Study”, Barrett et al 2021
- “The Psychology of Philosophy: Associating Philosophical Views With Psychological Traits in Professional Philosophers”, Yaden & Anderson 2021
- “The Cognitive and Perceptual Correlates of Ideological Attitudes: a Data-driven Approach”, Zmigrod et al 2021
- “My Immortal As Alchemical Allegory”, Alexander 2020
- “Survey of Entity Encounter Experiences Occasioned by Inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, Interpretation, and Enduring Effects”, Davis et al 2020
- “Analytic Atheism: A Cross-culturally Weak and Fickle Phenomenon?”, Gervais et al 2020
- “The Institutional Foundations of Religious Politics: Evidence from Indonesia”, Bazzi et al 2019
- “Writing ‘Akhnaten’: A Co-author of Philip Glass’ Egyptian Opera, Opening at the Met This Weekend, Recalls How the Monotheistic ‘heretic Pharaoh’ Became the Fat Lady”, Goldman 2019
- “The Myth of the Stupid Believer: The Negative Religiousness-IQ Nexus Is Not on General Intelligence (g) and Is Likely a Product of the Relations Between IQ and Autism Spectrum Traits”, Dutton et al 2019
- “Judgments of Effort for Magical Violations of Intuitive Physics”, McCoy & Ullman 2019
- “Tra I Leoni: Revealing the Preferences Behind a Superstition”, Invernizzi et al 2019
- “Universality and Diversity in Human Song”, Mehr et al 2019
- “Magic Performances—When Explained in Psychic Terms by University Students”, Lesaffre et al 2018
- “The Negative Relationship between Reasoning and Religiosity Is Underpinned by a Bias for Intuitive Responses Specifically When Intuition and Logic Are in Conflict”, Daws & Hampshire 2017
- “How Many Atheists Are There?”, Gervais & Najle 2017
- “The Explanatory Structure of Unexplainable Events: Causal Constraints on Magical Reasoning”, Shtulman & Morgan 2017
- “Atheists and Agnostics Are More Reflective Than Religious Believers: Four Empirical Studies and a Meta-Analysis”, Pennycook et al 2016
- “Legal Roots of Authoritarian Rule in the Middle East: Civic Legacies of the Islamic Waqf”, Kuran 2016
- “Unsong”, Alexander 2015
- “MCI Theory: a Critical Discussion”, Purzycki & Willard 2015
- “Revealing Ontological Commitments by Magic”, Griffiths 2015
- “Cognitive Style and Religiosity: The Role of Conflict Detection”, Pennycook et al 2013
- “A Philosopher Defends Religion [review of Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies]”, Nagel 2012
- “Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God”, Shenhav et al 2012
- “A Rule Against Perpetuities For The 21st Century”, Schneider 2007
- “Rule Enforcement Without Visible Means: Christmas Gift Giving in Middletown”, Caplow 1984
- “Decoding Middletown’s Easter Bunny: A Study in American Iconography”, Caplow & Williamson 1980
- “Buddha's Lists”, Wiki 2022
- Wang Chong § Work and philosophy
“Magical Thinking in Individuals With High Polygenic Risk for Schizophrenia but No Non-affective Psychoses—a General Population Study”, Saarinen et al 2022
A strong genetic background for psychoses is well-established. Most individuals with a high genetic risk for schizophrenia, however, do not develop the disorder.
We investigated whether individuals, who have a high genetic risk for schizophrenia but no non-affective psychotic disorders, are predisposed to develop milder forms of deviant thinking in terms of magical thinking.
Participants came from the population-based Young Finns Study (n = 1,292). The polygenic risk score for schizophrenia (PRS) was calculated on the basis of the most recent genome-wide association study (GWAS). Psychiatric diagnoses over the lifespan were collected up to 2017 from the registry of hospital care. Magical thinking was evaluated with the Spiritual Acceptance Scale (eg. beliefs in telepathy, miracles, mystical events, or sixth sense) of the Temperament and Character Inventory in 1997, 2001, and 2012 (participants were 20–50-year-olds).
We found that, among those who did not develop non-affective psychotic disorders, high PRS predicted higher magical thinking in adulthood (p = 0.001). Further, PRS predicted different developmental courses: a low PRS predicted a steady decrease in magical thinking from age 20 to 50 years, while in individuals with high PRS the decrease in magical thinking ceased in middle age so that their level of magical thinking remained higher than expected for that age. These findings remained when controlling for sex, childhood family environment, and adulthood socioeconomic factors.
In conclusion, if high PRS does not lead to a non-affective psychotic disorder, it predicts milder forms of deviant thinking such as elevated magical thinking in adulthood, especially in middle age. The finding enhances our understanding of different outcomes of high genetic psychosis risk.
…In Models 1, we found that high weighted PRS (b = 0.077, p = 0.001, see Table 2) and high unweighted PRS (b = 0.082, p = 0.001, see Table 3) had a positive main effect on magical thinking (ie. high weighted and unweighted PRS predicted higher curve of magical thinking in adulthood). The statistically-significant main effects of age and age-squared indicated that the curve of magical thinking over age was curvilinear.
“Same-sex Competition and Sexual Conflict Expressed through Witchcraft Accusations”, Peacey et al 2022
There is substantial cross-cultural variation in the sex of individuals most likely to be accused of practising witchcraft. Allegations of witchcraft might be a mechanism for nullifying competitors so resources they would have used become available to others. In this case, who is targeted may result from patterns of competition and conflict (same-sex or male-female) within specific relationships, which are determined by broader socio-ecological factors.
Here we examine patterns of sex-specific accusations in historic cases from sub-Saharan Africa (n = 423 accusations).
Male ‘witches’ formed the greater part of our sample, and were mostly accused by male blood-relatives and non-relatives, often in connection to disputes over wealth and status. Accusations of women were mainly from kin by marriage, and particularly from husbands and co-wives. The most common outcomes were that the accused was forced to move, or suffered reputational damage.
Our results suggest that competition underlies accusations and relationship patterns may determine who is liable to be accused.
…Our sample of cases is predominantly drawn from the Bantu ethno-linguistic cluster in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore it consists of groups with predominantly patrilineal, patrilocal kinship and relatively high levels of polygamous marriage, notwithstanding some variation.
“Magical Contagion and Commemorative Plaques: Effects of Celebrity Occupancy on Property Values”, Ayton et al 2022
2022-ayton.pdf: “Magical contagion and commemorative plaques: Effects of celebrity occupancy on property values”, (2022-02; ; similar):
- Data on transaction prices of residential properties in London are analyzed.
- Properties with commemorative plaques signal the residence of notable individuals.
- Transaction prices of properties increase after commemorative plaques are installed.
In many places commemorative plaques are erected on buildings to serve as historical markers of notable men and women who lived in them—London has a Blue Plaque scheme for this purpose.
We investigated the influence of commemorative Blue Plaques on the selling prices of London real estate. We identified properties which sold both before and after a Blue Plaque was installed indexing prices relative to the median prevailing sales prices of properties sold in the same neighborhood.
Relative prices increased by 27% ($165,000 as of July 2020) after a Blue Plaque was installed but not in a control set of properties without Blue Plaques, sold both before and after a Blue Plaque was installed in close proximity.
We discuss these findings in relation to the theory of magical contagion and claims from previous research suggesting that people are less likely to acknowledge magical effects when decisions involve money.
[Keywords: contagion, kudos, superstition, affect, intuitive evaluation]
“Dream Interpretation from a Cognitive and Cultural Evolutionary Perspective: The Case of Oneiromancy in Traditional China”, Hong 2022
2022-hong.pdf: “Dream Interpretation from a Cognitive and Cultural Evolutionary Perspective: The Case of Oneiromancy in Traditional China”, (2022-01-23; ; similar):
Why did people across the world and throughout history believe that dreams can foretell what will occur in the future? In this paper, I attempt to answer this question within a cultural evolutionary framework by emphasizing the cognitive aspect of dream interpretation; namely, the fact that dreams were often viewed as meaningful and interpretable has to do with various psychological and social factors that influence how people obtain and process information regarding the validity of dream interpretation as a technique.
Through a comprehensive analysis of a large dataset of dream occurrences in the official Chinese historical records [and dream encyclopedias], I argue that the ubiquity and persistence of dream interpretation have a strong empirical component (predictively accurate dream cases), which is particularly vulnerable to transmission errors and biases. The overwhelmingly successful records of dream prediction in transmitted texts, I suggest, is largely due to the fabrication and retrospective inference of past dreams, as well as the under-reporting of predictive failures [selection bias, post hoc confirmation bias/publication bias]. These “positive data” then reinforce individuals’ confidence in the predictive power of dreams.
I finally show a potential decline of the popularity of dream interpretation in traditional China and offer a few suggestive explanations drawing on the unique characteristics of oneiromancy compared to other divination techniques.
[Keywords: cultural evolution, divination, oneiromancy, China, dream]
…Since this paper focuses on why people believe in the validity of oneiromancy, I propose to classify dreams by their epistemological status. Specifically, dreams as signs that usually need to be interpreted (often with professional expertise) and dreams as messages transmitted by other humans or human-like agents. This distinction is useful because it highlights how the perceived plausibility of the 2 kinds of dreams may be affected by one’s larger theoretical commitment.5 The famous Eastern Han skeptical thinker, Wang Chong (27–97 CE), for example, denies the possibility of message dreams but would entertain the possibility of certain sign dreams (He 2011).
…2.3. The cultural transmission of oneiromancy instructions and cases: Because of the indispensability of interpretation in sign dreams, there is often an interest and demand for instructions on how to correctly interpret of the content of dreams. In ancient China, there was a rich tradition in collecting and compiling dreams and their associated meanings (Fu 2017; Liu 1989), and some of the most popular compilations, such as The Duke of Zhou’s Explanations of Dreams, can still be purchased in bookstores today (Yun 2013). As mentioned, the other aspect of cultural transmission of oneiromancy, the transmission of actual oneiromancy cases and the associated predictive outcomes (whether the prediction was successful or not), is also important; intuitively, one would not take dreams very seriously if all she hears about oneiromancy are failed predictions.
In China, oneiromancy cases were recorded in historical records, philosophical writings, and a wide range of literary forms (fiction, drama, poetry, etc.) (Liu 1989). During later dynasties, compilations of oneiromancy cases in the form of encyclopedias became popular with improved printing technology and the expansion of book publishing and distribution (Vance 2012, “Textualizing dreams in a Late Ming dream encyclopedia”). These encyclopedias often contained both dream prognostic instructions and actual cases; in an extensive analysis of an oneiromancy encyclopedia, Forest of Dreams compiled in 1636 CE, for example, Vance 2012 shows that it contained not only instructions on how to interpret dreams but also many case descriptions of predictive dreams.
…In total, I collected 793 dream occurrences and recorded information regarding the type of dreams, the dreamer, the interpreter, the interpretation of the dream, and the predictive accuracy of the dream interpretation whenever possible (see Supplementary Material for details)…Figure 3 shows the relative proportion of dreams in terms of their predictive accuracy over historical time, and what is immediately obvious is that most dream occurrences are prophetic and have an associated confirmatory outcome. That is, whenever dreams are mentioned in these official historical records, the readers can expect that they are predictive of some later outcome, which is usually verified.
…To what extent were these stories believed? Historical texts do not offer straightforward answers, but we can, nonetheless, get some indirect clues. The famous skeptic during the Eastern Han dynasty, Wang Chong (27–97 CE) made the following comment on the story about how the mother of the first Han emperor Liu Ao dreamed of a dragon which presumably induced the pregnancy:
“From the chronicle of Gaozu (the later founding emperor of the Han dynasty) we learn that dame Liu (mother of Gaozu) was reposing on the banks of a large lake. In her dream she met with a spirit. At the time there was a tempest with thunder and lightning and a great darkness. Taigong (Gaozu’s father) went near, and perceived a dragon above her. She became enceinte and was delivered of Gaozu. These instances of the supernatural action of spirits are not only narrated, but also written down, and all the savants of the day swear by them.” (Lun Heng, Chapter 26 [?], Forke 1907’s translation)
Thus, the story goes that Gaozu’s mother met with a spirit (and presumably had sexual intercourse with it) whose earthly manifestation was a dragon. According to Wang Chong, all the savants believed the veracity of the story, and he felt compelled to make a case against it. Of course, we do not know for sure whether the savants at the time genuinely believed in it or were merely pretending for political reasons. I suggest that some, perhaps many of them were genuine believers; even Wang Chong himself who argued against this kind of supernatural pregnancy believed that when great men are born, there will be signs occurring either in reality or dreams; he just does not believe that nonhuman species, such as dragons, can have sexual intercourse with humans.9
…To get a better sense of the number of such “political justification” dreams, I computed the percentage of such dreams11 out of the total number of dreams in different historical periods (Table 1).
From Table 1, we can clearly see that in all 3 historical periods (the reason for using Southern-Northern Dynasties as the dividing period will be made clear in Section 3.4), there is a nontrivial proportion of recorded dreams of such type. The percentage of dreams that could be used to justify political power is slightly higher in the pre Southern-Northern Dynasties period and remains roughly constant in the later 2 periods.
In addition to intentional fabrication, some dreams may be “false memories”; that is, individuals may falsely remember and report dreams that they never experienced if these dreams were expected in the community. Recent psychological research on dreams has suggested that the encoding of memories of dreams may share the same neurocognitive basis as autobiographical memory and thus be subject to false memory (Beaulieu-Prévost & Zadra 2015). Psychologists have long known that subjective dream reports are often unreliable (Schwitzgebel 2011, Perplexities of consciousness), and both theoretical accounts and empirical studies (Beaulieu-Prévost & Zadra 2015) have suggested that false memories may occur quite often in dreams (Rosen 2013). In particular, Rosen 2013 points out there is often substantial memory loss in dream recall, which may lead to a “fill in the blanks” process.
While the dreamer may fabricate or falsely remember their dreams, the observer can also infer dreams retrospectively. Historians in ancient China often have an “if there is an outcome, then there must be a sign” mentality (Zheng 2014) when recording events that were supposed be predicted by divination. Similarly, Vance 2012 in her extensive treatment of dream interpretation of the Ming dynasty argues that written and transmitted dreams often reveal not what the dreamers actually dreamed of but what the recorder believed about the dreams. In my dataset, a substantial proportion of the dreams (11%) were described in a retrospective and explanatory manner, marked by the phrase “in the beginning” (chu). This way of writing gives the impression that the authors were trying to find signs that had already foretold the fate of individuals in order to create a coherent narrative.
Therefore, it is likely that the retelling and recording of dreams involved an imaginative and inferential process. Li 1999 points out that in early Chinese historical writing, authors may present cases where multiple individuals shared the same dream to prove its objective veracity. In my dataset, 1.3% of total dreams were reported to have multiple dreamers, and in the most extreme case, hundreds of people were said to have dreamed of the same thing.12 Although this is not statistically impossible, we can safely conclude (unless we seriously entertain the possibility of ghosts and spirits sending dream messages to multiple individuals simultaneously) that there was either some serious fabrication or false inference.
3.3. Under-reporting of failed dream predictions/wrong dream interpretations: In addition to the fabrication/retrospective inference of oneiromancy cases, under-reporting of failed predictions very likely existed to a substantial extent. The Song historian and philosopher Lü Zuqian (1137–1181 CE) made the following statement when commenting on the Confucian text Zuo Zhuan (~500 BCE) regarding the accuracy of divination predictions:
“Some people ask:”Zuo’s record of crackmaking and milfoil divination cases were so amazing and spectacular; given such predictive accuracy, why are there so few [records] of them?” The answer: “from the Lord Yin [Duke Yin of Lu] till Lord Ai was a total of 222 years. Kings, lords, dukes, the literati and the commoner perhaps made tens of thousands of divinations, and only tens of the efficacious cases were recorded in Zuo’s book. These tens of the cases were collected in Zuo’s book and therefore feel like a lot; if they were dispersed into the 222 years it would feel extremely rare. If divination cases were of deceptive nature or had failed predictions, they would not have transmitted during their time and not be recorded in the book. I do not know how many tens of thousands of them were missed. If we had all of them [recorded], they would not be so rare.” (Donglai Zuoshi Boyi13)
It is not the case that all pregnant women have the same type of dreams, and it is not the case that if [she] dreams of certain signs she must give birth to son or daughter. There are also instances where one dreams of a bear15 yet gives birth to a daughter, and instances where one dreams of a snake and gives birth to a son. The poets [diviners] tell the cases where their predictions are fulfilled and not talk about the cases where their predictions failed. (Wuhe Ji16)
…my own fieldwork in southwest China among the Yi shows that many people are unwilling to reveal the divination or healing ritual failures of local shamans because these shamans are often friends and neighbors of the clients and there is the concern that spreading “accidental” failures may taint their reputation (Hong, submitted).
…As we have argued elsewhere, under-reporting of failed predictions may be a prevalent feature of divination in ancient societies (Anonymized, forthcoming). By selectively omitting failed predictions, these transmitted texts give a false impression that dream interpretations are overwhelmingly accurate, which, along with fabrication and ad hoc inference of predictive dreams, serves as a powerful mechanism to empirically sustain the validity of oneiromancy.
“Populist Gullibility: Conspiracy Theories, News Credibility, Bullshit Receptivity, and Paranormal Belief”, Prooijen et al 2022
The present research examines the relationship between populist attitudes—that construe society as a struggle between the “corrupt elites” versus the “noble people”—and beliefs in unsubstantiated epistemic claims. We specifically sought to assess the often assumed link between conspiracy beliefs and populist attitudes; moreover, we examined if populist attitudes predict conspiracy beliefs in particular, or rather, credulity of unsubstantiated epistemic claims in general.
Study 1 revealed that populist attitudes are robustly associated with conspiracy mentality in a large multi-nation study, drawing samples from 13 European Union (EU) countries. Studies 2 and 3 revealed that besides conspiracy beliefs, populist attitudes also predict increased credulity of obscure and politically neutral news items (regardless of whether they were broadcast by mainstream or alternative news sources), receptivity to bulls—t statements, and supernatural beliefs. Furthermore, Study 3 revealed that these findings were mediated by increased faith in intuition.
These studies support the notion of populist gullibility: An increased tendency of people who score high on populist attitudes to accept obscure or unsubstantiated epistemic claims as true, including nonpolitical ones.
“Can Schools Change Religious Attitudes? Evidence from German State Reforms of Compulsory Religious Education”, Arold et al 2022-page-3
We study whether compulsory religious education in schools affects students’ religiosity as adults.
We exploit the staggered termination of compulsory religious education across German states in models with state and cohort fixed effects.
Using 3 different datasets, we find that abolishing compulsory religious education statistically-significantly reduced religiosity of affected students in adulthood. It also reduced the religious actions of personal prayer, church-going, and church membership. Beyond religious attitudes, the reform led to more equalized gender roles, fewer marriages and children, and higher labor-market participation and earnings. The reform did not affect ethical and political values or non-religious school outcomes.
[Keywords: religious education, religiosity, school reforms]
The 1949 Constitution of West Germany had formally enshrined religious education as the only subject that is institutionalized as a regular subject in public schools, so that religious education was a compulsory subject in state curricula. Religious education was very intense: High-school graduates were exposed to roughly 1,000 hours of religious education over their school career—more than 4× the hours of physics classes, for example (Havers 1972). In reforms enacted at different points in time between 1972 and 2004, the different states replaced the obligation to attend religious education with the option to choose between denominational religious education and “ethics” as a non-denominational subject. A particularly interesting feature of the reforms is that the counterfactual to compulsory religious instruction is not to have no value-oriented instruction, but rather non-denominational value-oriented instruction. As a consequence, the reforms allow us to identify the impact of the religious part of instruction, holding the overall exposure to value-oriented instruction constant.
…Our merged dataset combines up to 58,000 observations of adults who entered primary school between 1950 and 2004 from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS), and the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
…Conditional on state and birth-year fixed effects as well as individual-level control variables, religiosity of students who were not subject to compulsory religious education is 7% of a standard deviation lower on average compared to students who were subject to compulsory religious education. Event-study graphs show that reforming states do not have statistically-significantly different trends in religiosity in the years prior to reform compared to non-reforming states.
We find similar reductions in 3 measures capturing specific religious actions: the personal act of prayer, the public act of going to church, and the formal (and costly) act of church membership. Estimation of time-varying treatment effects indicates that effects on religiosity and personal prayer phase in gradually over time, whereas the effect on church membership are closer to one-time shifts. In a subsample that allows to merge regional information, effects are mostly restricted to predominantly Catholic (rather than Protestant) counties.
“Believers in pseudoscience present lower evidential criteria”, (2021-12-21; ; similar):
Previous studies have proposed that low evidential criteria or proneness to jump to conclusions [“jump-to-conclusions bias”] influences the formation of paranormal beliefs.
We investigated whether the low evidential criteria hypothesis for paranormal beliefs extends to a conceptually distinct type of unwarranted beliefs: those related to pseudoscience.
We presented individuals varying in their endorsement of pseudoscientific beliefs with 2 hypothesis testing tasks. In the beads task, the participants were asked to decide from which of 2 jars containing different proportions of colored beads they were collecting samples. In the mouse trap task, they were asked to guess which rule determined whether a participant-controlled mouse obtained a piece of cheese or was trapped. In both cases, the volunteers were free to decide when to stop collecting evidence before completing the tasks.
Our results indicate that, compared to skeptics, individuals presenting stronger endorsement of pseudoscientific beliefs tend to require less evidence before coming to a conclusion in hypothesis testing situations.
“The Negative Religiousness-IQ Nexus Is a Jensen Effect on Individual-Level Data: A Refutation of Dutton Et Al 2019’s ‘The Myth of the Stupid Believer’”, Dutton & Kirkegaard 2021
[blog] A recent study by Dutton et al 2019 found that the religiousness-IQ nexus is not on g when comparing different groups with various degrees of religiosity and the non-religious. It suggested, accordingly, that the nexus related to the relationship between specialized analytic abilities on the IQ test and autism traits, with the latter predicting atheism. The study was limited by the fact that it was on group-level data, it used only one measure of religiosity that measure may have been confounded by the social element to church membership and it involved relatively few items via which a Jensen effect could be calculated.
Here, we test whether the religiousness-IQ nexus is on g with individual-level data using archival data from the Vietnam Experience Study, in which 4,462 US veterans were subjected to detailed psychological tests. We used multiple measures of religiosity—which we factor-analysed to a religion-factor—and a large number of items.
We found, contrary to the findings of Dutton et al 2019, that the IQ differences with regard to whether or not subjects believed in God are indeed a Jensen effect. We also uncovered a number of anomalies, which we explore.
[Keywords: religion, intelligence, cognitive ability, Jensen effect, differential item functioning, local structural equation models, item response theory]
2021-barrett.pdf: “Intuitive Dualism and Afterlife Beliefs: A Cross-Cultural Study”, (2021-06-25; similar):
It is widely held that intuitive dualism—an implicit default mode of thought that takes minds to be separable from bodies and capable of independent existence—is a human universal. Among the findings taken to support universal intuitive dualism is a pattern of evidence in which “psychological” traits (knowledge, desires) are judged more likely to continue after death than bodily or “biological” traits (perceptual, physiological, and bodily states).
Here, we present cross-cultural evidence from 6 study populations, including non-Western societies with diverse belief systems, that shows that while this pattern exists, the overall pattern of responses nonetheless does not support intuitive dualism in afterlife beliefs. Most responses of most participants across all cultures tested were not dualist.
While our sample is in no way intended to capture the full range of human societies and afterlife beliefs, it captures a far broader range of cultures than in any prior study, and thus puts the case for afterlife beliefs as evidence for universal intuitive dualism to a strong test. Based on these findings, we suggest that while dualist thinking is a possible mode of thought enabled by evolved human psychology, such thinking does not constitute a default mode of thought.
Rather, our data support what we will call intuitive materialism—the view that the underlying intuitive systems for reasoning about minds and death produce as a default judgment that mental states cease to exist with bodily death.
“The Psychology of Philosophy: Associating Philosophical Views With Psychological Traits in Professional Philosophers”, Yaden & Anderson 2021
2021-yaden.pdf: “The psychology of philosophy: Associating philosophical views with psychological traits in professional philosophers”, (2021-04-27; ; similar):
Do psychological traits predict philosophical views?
We administered the PhilPapers Survey, created by David Bourget and David Chalmers, which consists of 30 views on central philosophical topics (eg. epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language) to a sample of professional philosophers (n = 314). We extended the PhilPapers survey to measure a number of psychological traits, such as personality, numeracy, well-being, lifestyle, and life experiences. We also included non-technical ‘translations’ of these views for eventual use in other populations.
We found limited to no support for the notion that personality or demographics predict philosophical views. We did, however, find that some psychological traits were predictive of philosophical views, even after strict correction for multiple comparisons. Findings include: higher interest in numeracy predicted physicalism, naturalism, and consequentialism; lower levels of well-being and higher levels of mental illness predicted hard determinism; using substances such as psychedelics and marijuana predicted non-realist and subjectivist views of morality and aesthetics; having had a transformative or self-transcendent experience predicted theism and idealism.
We discuss whether or not these empirical results have philosophical implications, while noting that 68% of our sample of professional philosophers indicated that such findings would indeed have philosophical value.
“The Cognitive and Perceptual Correlates of Ideological Attitudes: a Data-driven Approach”, Zmigrod et al 2021
[cf. Zmigrod 2022] Although human existence is enveloped by ideologies, remarkably little is understood about the relationships between ideological attitudes and psychological traits. Even less is known about how cognitive dispositions—individual differences in how information is perceived and processed—sculpt individuals’ ideological worldviews, proclivities for extremist beliefs and resistance (or receptivity) to evidence.
Using an unprecedented number of cognitive tasks (n = 37) and personality surveys (n = 22), along with data-driven analyses including drift-diffusion and Bayesian modelling, we uncovered the specific psychological signatures of political, nationalistic, religious and dogmatic beliefs.
Cognitive and personality assessments consistently outperformed demographic predictors in accounting for individual differences in ideological preferences by 4–15×. Furthermore, data-driven analyses revealed that individuals’ ideological attitudes mirrored their cognitive decision-making strategies. Conservatism and nationalism were related to greater caution in perceptual decision-making tasks and to reduced strategic information processing, while dogmatism was associated with slower evidence accumulation and impulsive tendencies. Religiosity was implicated in heightened agreeableness and risk perception. Extreme pro-group attitudes, including violence endorsement against outgroups, were linked to poorer working memory, slower perceptual strategies, and tendencies towards impulsivity and sensation-seeking—reflecting overlaps with the psychological profiles of conservatism and dogmatism.
Cognitive and personality signatures were also generated for ideologies such as authoritarianism, system justification, social dominance orientation, patriotism and receptivity to evidence or alternative viewpoints; elucidating their underpinnings and highlighting avenues for future research. Together these findings suggest that ideological worldviews may be reflective of low-level perceptual and cognitive functions.
[Mock-serious literary exegesis by the author of Unsong of infamously-bad Harry Potter fanfiction “My Immortal”; Alexander sets out to try to explain the plot as a cunningly-concealed allegory of a Rosicrucian initiate’s failure to carry through the great work of alchemy and a revision of Goethe’s Faust Part II, drawing on Carl Jung’s interpretation of alchemy as a metaphor for spiritual transformation.
As such, this explains the heavy color symbolism, the protagonist’s failure to consummate her relationship with Draco Malfoy, the author’s inability to distinguish Harry Potter from Rubeus Hagrid, the fourth-wall-breaking towards the end, and the ending itself, in which the protagonist, a self-insert of the author, escapes death and is reborn as the author herself.]
“Survey of Entity Encounter Experiences Occasioned by Inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, Interpretation, and Enduring Effects”, Davis et al 2020
2020-davis.pdf: “Survey of entity encounter experiences occasioned by inhaled N,N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, interpretation, and enduring effects”, (2020-04-28; ; ; similar):
Aim: The study characterized the subjective phenomena, interpretation, and persisting changes that people attribute to N,N-dimethyltryptamine-occasioned entity encounter experiences.
Methods: 2,561 individuals (mean age 32 years; 77% male) completed an online survey about their single most memorable entity encounter after taking N,N-dimethyltryptamine.
Results: Respondents reported the primary senses involved in the encounter were visual and extrasensory (eg. telepathic). The most common descriptive labels for the entity were being, guide, spirit, alien, and helper. Although 41% of respondents reported fear during the encounter, the most prominent emotions both in the respondent and attributed to the entity were love, kindness, and joy. Most respondents endorsed that the entity had the attributes of being conscious, intelligent, and benevolent, existed in some real but different dimension of reality, and continued to exist after the encounter. Respondents endorsed receiving a message (69%) or a prediction about the future (19%) from the experience. More than half of those who identified as atheist before the experience no longer identified as atheist afterwards. The experiences were rated as among the most meaningful, spiritual, and psychologically insightful lifetime experiences, with persisting positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning attributed to the experiences.
Conclusion: N,N-dimethyltryptamine-occasioned entity encounter experiences have many similarities to non-drug entity encounter experiences such as those described in religious, alien abduction, and near-death contexts. Aspects of the experience and its interpretation produced profound and enduring ontological changes in worldview.
“Analytic atheism: A cross-culturally weak and fickle phenomenon?”, (2020-01-28; ; similar):
Religious belief is a topic of longstanding interest to psychological science, but the psychology of religious disbelief is a relative newcomer. One prominently discussed model is analytic atheism, wherein analytic thinking overrides religious intuitions and instruction. Consistent with this model, performance-based measures of reliance on analytic thinking predict religious disbelief in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, & Democratic) samples. However, the generality of analytic atheism remains unknown.
Drawing on a large global sample (n = 3,461) from 13 religiously, demographically, and culturally diverse societies, we find that analytic atheism is in fact quite fickle cross-culturally, only appearing robustly in aggregate analyses and in 3 individual countries.
Such complexity implies a need to revise simplistic theories of religious disbelief as primarily grounded in cognitive style. The results provide additional evidence for culture’s effects on core beliefs, highlighting the power of comparative cultural evidence to clarify core mechanisms of human psychological variation.
[Keywords: atheism, culture, dual process cognition, generalizability, religion, replicability, WEIRD people]
2019-bazzi.pdf: “The Institutional Foundations of Religious Politics: Evidence from Indonesia”, (2019-12-23; ; ; similar):
This article explores the foundations of religious influence in politics and society. We show that an important Islamic institution fostered the entrenchment of Islamism at a critical juncture in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. In the early 1960s, rural elites transferred large amounts of land into waqf—inalienable charitable trusts in Islamic law—to avoid expropriation by the state. Regions facing a greater threat of expropriation exhibit more prevalent waqf land and Islamic institutions endowed as such, including mosques and religious schools. These endowments provided conservative forces with the capital needed to promote Islamist ideology and mobilize against the secular state. We identify lasting effects of the transfers on the size of the religious sector, electoral support for Islamist parties, and the adoption of local sharia laws. These effects are shaped by greater demand for religion in government but not by greater piety among the electorate. Waqf assets also impose costs on the local economy, particularly in agriculture, where these endowments are associated with lower productivity. Overall, our findings shed new light on the origins and consequences of Islamism.
“Writing ‘Akhnaten’: A Co-author of Philip Glass’ Egyptian Opera, Opening at the Met This Weekend, Recalls How the Monotheistic ‘heretic Pharaoh’ Became the Fat Lady”, Goldman 2019
Akhnaten, Philip Glass’ “Egyptian opera”, opening at the Metropolitan Opera this weekend, premiered in 1984 and since then has been produced in many different stagings, primarily in European cities, where the composer has a very large and enthusiastic audience. Akhnaten’s American production story has been much more modest.
…Someone at the party had told Glass that I was studying Egyptian language and culture. He sought me out, introduced himself and asked if I knew anything about Akhnaten, the “heretic Pharaoh.” The party had put me in a jocular mood and my immediate response was “know about him? I just saw him!” I explained that I had only recently returned from Cairo, where the massive statue of Akhnaten in the Cairo Museum was the Egyptian artifact that had made the deepest impression on me. (Later I realized that in my response I was channeling a skit in 2000 Year Old Man in which Carl Reiner asks Mel Brooks if he had known Joan of Arc. “What do you mean knew her”, said Brooks, “I dated her!”) Our initial conversation about Egypt and Akhnaten lasted for more than an hour.
In his remarkably creative way, Glass had been reading widely about Egypt and Akhnaten. He had studied James Henry Breasted’s authoritative History of Egypt and he read Freud’s speculations about Akhnaten in his last book, Moses and Monotheism. We agreed to meet the following week to continue our conversation. I told Glass that for our next meeting I would bring pictures of Akhnaten, his wife Nefertiti, and of his artistic creations. For Akhnaten was an artist and poet, as well as a Pharaoh—or at least that was the claim of some experts. Our subsequent meetings at which I was introduced to Glass’ theater and music collaborators, Robert Israel and Richard Riddell, went very well. They had worked with Glass on Satyagraha and were collaborating with him on the creation of Akhnaten. Asked by Glass if I would be able to serve as a researcher on his Egyptian project, I said yes.
…His formulation was: “Einstein as the man of science, Gandhi as the man of politics, Akhnaten as the man of religion.”
In his 1987 book, Music by Philip Glass, the composer explained his fascination with the heretic king: “On becoming Pharaoh, he declared a new religion based upon Aten, associated with the sun, but not actually the sun itself, a very important point theologically. His new god was supreme and alone, making Akhnaten the first declared monotheist in history….Finally, by not completely identifying his god with the physical sun but emphasizing his independent nature, Akhnaten’s god is the first truly abstract god head we know.” Glass knew that not all historians of religion and culture agreed with this description. But for Glass, the main point was that “Akhnaten had changed his (and our) world through the force of his ideas and not through the force of arms.”
“The Myth of the Stupid Believer: The Negative Religiousness-IQ Nexus Is Not on General Intelligence (g) and Is Likely a Product of the Relations Between IQ and Autism Spectrum Traits”, Dutton et al 2019
“The Myth of the Stupid Believer: The Negative Religiousness-IQ Nexus is Not on General Intelligence (g) and is Likely a Product of the Relations Between IQ and Autism Spectrum Traits”, (2019-10-05; ; similar):
Numerous studies have found a negative relationship between religiousness and IQ. It is in the region of −0.2, according to meta-analyses. The reasons for this relationship are, however, unknown. It has been suggested that higher intelligence leads to greater attraction to science, or that it helps to override evolved cognitive dispositions such as for religiousness. Either way, such explanations assume that the religion-IQ nexus is on general intelligence (g), rather than some subset of specialized cognitive abilities. In other words, they assume it is a Jensen effect.
Two large datasets comparing groups with different levels of religiousness show that their IQ differences are not on g and must, therefore, be attributed to specialized abilities [but see Dutton et al 201 which finds the opposite, using much stronger IQ testing]. An analysis of the specialized abilities on which the religious and non-religious groups differ reveals no clear pattern.
We cautiously suggest that this may be explicable in terms of autism spectrum disorder traits among people with high IQ scores, because such traits are negatively associated with religiousness.
“Judgments of effort for magical violations of intuitive physics”, (2019-05-12; ; ; similar):
People spend much of their time in imaginary worlds, and have beliefs about the events that are likely in those worlds, and the laws that govern them. Such beliefs are likely affected by people’s intuitive theories of the real world. In three studies, people judged the effort required to cast spells that cause physical violations. People ranked the actions of spells congruently with intuitive physics. For example, people judge that it requires more effort to conjure up a frog than to levitate it one foot off the ground. A second study manipulated the target and extent of the spells, and demonstrated with a continuous measure that people are sensitive to this manipulation even between participants. A pre-registered third study replicated the results of Study 2. These results suggest that people’s intuitive theories partly account for how they think about imaginary worlds.
“Tra i Leoni: Revealing the Preferences Behind a Superstition”, (2019-03-07; ; similar):
We investigate a superstition for which adherence is nearly universal.
Using a combination of field interventions that involve unsuspecting participants and a lab-style value elicitation, we measure the strength of peoples’ underlying preferences, and to what extent their behavior is driven by social conformity rather than the superstition itself. Our findings indicate that both mechanisms influence behavior. While a substantial number of people are willing to incur a relatively high individual cost in order to adhere to the superstition, for many, adherence is contingent on the behavior of others.
Our findings suggest that it is the conforming nature of the majority that sustains the false beliefs of the minority.
[Keywords: conformity, field experiment, lab-in-the-field, superstition]
…The Superstition: “Via Sarfatti 25” is the oldest building of classrooms at Bocconi University, and most lectures are held there. The entrance is broad, with 3 adjacent passageways. The middle passageway is separated from the adjacent lateral ones by 2 columns, each of which is fronted by a statue of a lion. A widely known refrain, after which the campus newspaper “Tra i Leoni” is named, has it that “One who passes between the lions, will not graduate at Bocconi”, which is a translation from the Italian original seen above. Accordingly, students almost universally shun the middle passageway, opting instead for one of the 2 lateral passageways. The impact on the flow of students in and out is stark. Fewer than 1 in 20 people entering or exiting the building pass between the lions, and the ones who do are almost invariably faculty or foreign exchange students.
- …Study 1 involves a field intervention in which we block off one of the 2 lateral passageways, thereby increasing the cost of indulging the superstition.
- Study 2 involves another field intervention, conducted during an evacuation drill. The evacuation drill offered an alternative approach to ruling out the shortest-path confound as the drill imposed considerable waiting cost on those exiting through the lateral passageways. Further, we sent groups of student confederates, with whom we had contracted, to walk through the middle passageway. The purpose was to reduce the cost of walking through the middle passageway for any student affected by explanation 2. We measure the degree to which our intervention caused more students to walk through the middle.
- Study 3, which combines lab and field features, quantifies the strength of students’ aversion to walking between the lions, and uses different treatments to further evaluate relevance of explanations 1 and 2. Using a simple and novel adaptation of the Becker-DeGroot-Marschak method (Becker et al 1964), we elicit the students willingness-to-accept money in exchange for agreeing to walk through the lions. Depending on treatment, they were informed either that they would walk “alone” or “together with the others that accept”.
…The results of Study 2 demonstrate that some students who behave in accordance with the superstitious rule will violate it if they observe other students near them doing so. This indicates that for these students, the aversion to walking between the lions is unrelated to a superstitious belief. Furthermore, because these students behaved in accordance with the rule before the intervention despite the cost of waiting, this suggests that conformity, rather than herding, or habit explains their initial choice of the lateral passageway during the evacuation drill.
…The experimenter emphasized that the study was not a simulation, and that there were real monetary consequences to their decisions. In particular, the students were informed that (1) the offers involved a real payment in Euros, (2) their acceptance of an offer was binding, and (3) the only way they could avoid the possibility of accepting was to circling item C, or to decline to participate by leaving the question blank. In order to increase the credibility and salience of the potentially large payments, the experimenter held up, for the students to see, the 3,000 Euros in cash that was available, and then informed them that some of the envelopes contained offers in the hundreds of Euros. The amount in the envelope varied between 5 Euros and 150 Euros. We attempted to improve the credibility of the payment and the study in 2 ways: (1) we prominently displayed euro bills in the thousands that could be gained, (2) we emphasized the seriousness of the study and the fact that student responses were to be taken as commitments.
…Nearly half of students will accept any offer in the alone treatment, whereas a minority 11% of students will reject any offer…he economics students appear to be more inclined to accept any offer, with a 12.5% higher rate of accepting any offer…The law students appear to be more inclined to reject any offer with a 11.2% higher rate of rejecting any offer.
“Universality and diversity in human song”, (2019; ):
What is universal about music, and what varies?
We built a corpus of ethnographic text on musical behavior from a representative sample of the world’s societies, as well as a discography of audio recordings.
The ethnographic corpus reveals that music (including songs with words) appears in every society observed; that music varies along 3 dimensions (formality, arousal, religiosity), more within societies than across them; and that music is associated with certain behavioral contexts such as infant care, healing, dance, and love.
The discography-analyzed through machine summaries, amateur and expert listener ratings, and manual transcriptions-reveals that acoustic features of songs predict their primary behavioral context; that tonality is widespread, perhaps universal; that music varies in rhythmic and melodic complexity; and that elements of melodies and rhythms found worldwide follow power laws.
Paranormal beliefs (PBs), such as the belief in the soul, or in extrasensory perception, are common in the general population. While there is information regarding what these beliefs correlate with (eg. cognitive biases, personality styles), there is little information regarding the causal direction between these beliefs and their correlates.
To investigate the formation of beliefs, we use an experimental design, in which PBs and belief-associated cognitive biases are assessed before and after a central event: a magic performance (see also Mohr et al 2018). In the current paper, we report a series of studies investigating the “paranormal potential” of magic performances (Study 1, n = 49; Study 2, n = 89; Study 3, n = 123). We investigated (1) which magic performances resulted in paranormal explanations, and (2) whether PBs and a belief-associated cognitive bias (ie. repetition avoidance) became enhanced after the performance. Repetition avoidance was assessed using a random number generation task. After the performance, participants rated to what extent the magic performance could be explained in psychic (paranormal), conjuring, or religious terms.
We found that conjuring explanations were negatively associated with religious and psychic explanations, whereas religious and psychic explanations were positively associated. Enhanced repetition avoidance correlated with higher PBs ahead of the performance. We also observed a statistically-significant increase in psychic explanations and a drop in conjuring explanations when performances involved powerful psychic routines (eg. the performer contacted the dead).
While the experimentally induced enhancement of psychic explanations is promising, future studies should account for potential variables that might explain absent framing and before-after effects (eg. emotion, attention). Such effects are essential to understand the formation and manipulation of belief.
“The Negative Relationship between Reasoning and Religiosity Is Underpinned by a Bias for Intuitive Responses Specifically When Intuition and Logic Are in Conflict”, Daws & Hampshire 2017
It is well established that religiosity correlates inversely with intelligence. A prominent hypothesis states that this correlation reflects behavioral biases toward intuitive problem solving, which causes errors when intuition conflicts with reasoning.
We tested predictions of this hypothesis by analyzing data from 2 large-scale Internet-cohort studies (combined n = 63,235).
We report that atheists surpass religious individuals in terms of reasoning but not working-memory performance. The religiosity effect is robust across sociodemographic factors including age, education and country of origin. It varies statistically-significantly across religions and this co-occurs with substantial cross-group differences in religious dogmatism. Critically, the religiosity effect is strongest for tasks that explicitly manipulate conflict; more specifically, atheists outperform the most dogmatic religious group by a substantial margin (0.6 standard deviations) during a color-word conflict task but not during a challenging matrix-reasoning task.
These results support the hypothesis that behavioral biases rather than impaired general intelligence underlie the religiosity effect.
One crucible for theories of religion is their ability to predict and explain the patterns of belief and disbelief. Yet, religious nonbelief is often heavily stigmatized, potentially leading many atheists to refrain from outing themselves even in anonymous polls. We used the unmatched count technique and Bayesian estimation to indirectly estimate atheist prevalence in two nationally representative samples of 2,000 U.S. adults apiece. Widely cited telephone polls (eg. Gallup, Pew) suggest U.S. atheist prevalence of only 3–11%. In contrast, our most credible indirect estimate is 26% (albeit with considerable estimate and method uncertainty). Our data and model predict that atheist prevalence exceeds 11% with greater than .99 probability and exceeds 20% with roughly .8 probability. Prevalence estimates of 11% were even less credible than estimates of 40%, and all intermediate estimates were more credible. Some popular theoretical approaches to religious cognition may require heavy revision to accommodate actual levels of religious disbelief.
[Keywords: religion, atheism, social desirability, stigma, Bayesian estimation]
“The Explanatory Structure of Unexplainable Events: Causal Constraints on Magical Reasoning”, Shtulman & Morgan 2017
A common intuition, often captured in fiction, is that some impossible events (eg. levitating a stone) are “more impossible” than others (eg. levitating a feather). We investigated the source of this intuition, hypothesizing that graded notions of impossibility arise from explanatory considerations logically precluded by the violation at hand but still taken into account.
Studies 1–4 involved college undergraduates (n = 357), and Study 5 involved preschool-aged children (n = 32). In Studies 1 and 2, participants saw pairs of magical spells that violated one of 18 causal principles—six physical, 6 biological, and 6 psychological—and were asked to indicate which spell would be more difficult to learn. Both spells violated the same causal principle but differed in their relation to a subsidiary principle.
Participants’ judgments of spell difficulty honored the subsidiary principle, even when participants were given the option of judging the 2 spells equally difficult. Study 3 replicated those effects with Likert-type ratings; Study 4 replicated them in an open-ended version of the task in which participants generated their own causal violations; and Study 5 replicated them with children.
Taken together, these findings suggest that events that defy causal explanation are interpreted in terms of explanatory considerations that hold in the absence of such violations.
[Keywords: causal reasoning, high order cognition, cognitive development, concepts]
“Atheists and Agnostics Are More Reflective Than Religious Believers: Four Empirical Studies and a Meta-Analysis”, Pennycook et al 2016
Individual differences in the mere willingness to think analytically has been shown to predict religious disbelief. Recently, however, it has been argued that analytic thinkers are not actually less religious; rather, the putative association may be a result of religiosity typically being measured after analytic thinking (an order effect). In light of this possibility, we report four studies in which a negative correlation between religious belief and performance on analytic thinking measures is found when religious belief is measured in a separate session. We also performed a meta-analysis on all previously published studies on the topic along with our four new studies (n = 15,078, k = 31), focusing specifically on the association between performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test (the most widely used individual difference measure of analytic thinking) and religious belief. This meta-analysis revealed an overall negative correlation (r) of -.18, 95% CI [-.21, -.16]. Although this correlation is modest, self-identified atheists (n = 133) scored 18.7% higher than religiously affiliated individuals (n = 597) on a composite measure of analytic thinking administered across our four new studies (d = 0.72). Our results indicate that the association between analytic thinking and religious disbelief is not caused by a simple order effect. There is good evidence that atheists and agnostics are more reflective than religious believers.
“Legal Roots of Authoritarian Rule in the Middle East: Civic Legacies of the Islamic Waqf”, Kuran 2016
2016-kuran.pdf: “Legal Roots of Authoritarian Rule in the Middle East: Civic Legacies of the Islamic Waqf”, (2016; ; ; similar):
In the legal system of the premodern Middle East, the closest thing to an autonomous private organization was the Islamic waqf. This non-state institution inhibited political participation, collective action, and rule of law, among other indicators of democratization. It did so through several mechanisms. Its activities were essentially set by its founder, which limited its capacity to meet political challenges. Being designed to provide a service on its own, it could not participate in lasting political coalitions. The waqf’s beneficiaries had no say in evaluating or selecting its officers, and they had trouble forming a political community. Thus, for all the resources it controlled, the Islamic waqf contributed minimally to building civil society. As a core element of Islam’s classical institutional complex, it perpetuated authoritarian rule by keeping the state largely unrestrained. Therein lies a key reason for the slow pace of the Middle East’s democratization process.
Aaron Smith-Teller works in a kabbalistic sweatshop in Silicon Valley, where he and hundreds of other minimum-wage workers try to brute-force the Holy Names of God. All around him, vast forces have been moving their pieces into place for the final confrontation. An overworked archangel tries to debug the laws of physics. Henry Kissinger transforms the ancient conflict between Heaven and Hell into a US-Soviet proxy war. A Mexican hedge wizard with no actual magic wreaks havoc using the dark art of placebomancy. The Messiah reads a book by Peter Singer and starts wondering exactly what it would mean to do as much good as possible…
Aaron doesn’t care about any of this. He and his not-quite-girlfriend Ana are engaged in something far more important—griping about magical intellectual property law. But when a chance discovery brings them into conflict with mysterious international magic-intellectual-property watchdog UNSONG, they find themselves caught in a web of plots, crusades, and prophecies leading inexorably to the end of the world.
In this paper, we critically review minimal counterintuitiveness theory (MCI) and the evidence supporting it.
MCI theory typically posits that religious concepts violate what we call deep inferences, intuitions stemming from our evolved cognitive architecture rather than shallow inferences that are specific and flexible informational units also used for inference-making.
We point to serious problems facing the approach, and propose a few corrective measures, avenues for further research, and an alternative view.
[Keywords: cognitive anthropology, cognitive science of religion, MCI theory, memory, religious concepts]
Considering the appeal of different magical transformations exposes some systematic asymmetries. For example, it is more interesting to transform a vase into a rose than a rose into a vase.
An experiment in which people judged how interesting they found different magic tricks showed that these asymmetries reflect the direction a transformation moves in an ontological hierarchy: transformations in the direction of animacy and intelligence are favored over the opposite.
A second and third experiment demonstrated that judgments of the plausibility of machines that perform the same transformations do not show the same asymmetries, but judgments of the interestingness of such machines do.
A formal argument relates this sense of interestingness to evidence for an alternative to our current physical theory, with magic tricks being a particularly pure source of such evidence. These results suggest that people’s intuitions about magic tricks can reveal the ontological commitments that underlie human cognition.
[Keywords: magic, ontological commitments, predictability, hierarchies, coincidences]
2013-pennycook.pdf: “Cognitive style and religiosity: The role of conflict detection”, (2013-06-20; ; similar):
Recent research has indicated a negative relation between the propensity for analytic reasoning and religious beliefs and practices. Here, we propose conflict detection as a mechanism underlying this relation, on the basis of the hypothesis that more-analytic people are less religious, in part, because they are more sensitive to conflicts between immaterial religious beliefs and beliefs about the material world.
To examine cognitive conflict sensitivity, we presented problems containing stereotypes that conflicted with base-rate probabilities in a task with no religious content.
In 3 studies, we found evidence that religiosity is negatively related to conflict detection during reasoning. Independent measures of analytic cognitive style also positively predicted conflict detection.
The present findings provide evidence for a mechanism potentially contributing to the negative association between analytic thinking and religiosity, and more generally, they illustrate the insights to be gained from integrating individual-difference factors and contextual factors to investigate analytic reasoning.
2012-09-27-nagel.txt: “A Philosopher Defends Religion [review of Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies]”, (2012-09-27; ; ; similar):
The gulf in outlook between atheists and adherents of the monotheistic religions is profound. We are fortunate to live under a constitutional system and a code of manners that by and large keep it from disturbing the social peace; usually the parties ignore each other. But sometimes the conflict surfaces and heats up into a public debate. The present is such a time.
…In his absorbing new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies, Alvin Plantinga, a distinguished analytic philosopher known for his contributions to metaphysics and theory of knowledge as well as to the philosophy of religion, turns this alleged opposition on its head. His overall claim is that “there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.” By naturalism he means the view that the world describable by the natural sciences is all that exists, and that there is no such person as God, or anything like God. Plantinga’s religion is the real thing, not just an intellectual deism that gives God nothing to do in the world. He himself is an evangelical Protestant, but he conducts his argument with respect to a version of Christianity that is the “rough intersection of the great Christian creeds”—ranging from the Apostle’s Creed to the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles—according to which God is a person who not only created and maintains the universe and its laws, but also intervenes specially in the world, with the miracles related in the Bible and in other ways. It is of great interest to be presented with a lucid and sophisticated account of how someone who holds these beliefs understands them to harmonize with and indeed to provide crucial support for the methods and results of the natural sciences…Faith, according to Plantinga, is another basic way of forming beliefs, distinct from but not in competition with reason, perception, memory, and the others. However, it is
a wholly different kettle of fish: according to the Christian tradition (including both Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin), faith is a special gift from God, not part of our ordinary epistemic equipment. Faith is a source of belief, a source that goes beyond the faculties included in reason.
God endows human beings with a sensus divinitatis that ordinarily leads them to believe in him. (In atheists the sensus divinitatis is either blocked or not functioning properly.)2 In addition, God acts in the world more selectively by “enabling Christians to see the truth of the central teachings of the Gospel.”
If all this is true, then by Plantinga’s standard of reliability and proper function, faith is a kind of cause that provides a warrant for theistic belief, even though it is a gift, and not an universal human faculty. (Plantinga recognizes that rational arguments have also been offered for the existence of God, but he thinks it is not necessary to rely on these, any more than it is necessary to rely on rational proofs of the existence of the external world to know just by looking that there is beer in the refrigerator.) It is illuminating to have the starkness of the opposition between Plantinga’s theism and the secular outlook so clearly explained. My instinctively atheistic perspective implies that if I ever found myself flooded with the conviction that what the Nicene Creed says is true, the most likely explanation would be that I was losing my mind, not that I was being granted the gift of faith. From Plantinga’s point of view, by contrast, I suffer from a kind of spiritual blindness from which I am unwilling to be cured. This is a huge epistemological gulf, and it cannot be overcome by the cooperative employment of the cognitive faculties that we share, as is the hope with scientific disagreements…The interest of this book, especially for secular readers, is its presentation from the inside of the point of view of a philosophically subtle and scientifically informed theist—an outlook with which many of them will not be familiar. Plantinga writes clearly and accessibly, and sometimes acidly—in response to aggressive critics of religion like Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. His comprehensive stand is a valuable contribution to this debate.
2012-shenhav.pdf: “Divine intuition: cognitive style influences belief in God”, (2012; ; ; similar):
Some have argued that belief in God is intuitive, a natural (by-)product of the human mind given its cognitive structure and social context. If this is true, the extent to which one believes in God may be influenced by one’s more general tendency to rely on intuition versus reflection. Three studies support this hypothesis, linking intuitive cognitive style to belief in God. Study 1 showed that individual differences in cognitive style predict belief in God. Participants completed the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT; Frederick, 2005), which employs math problems that, although easily solvable, have intuitively compelling incorrect answers. Participants who gave more intuitive answers on the CRT reported stronger belief in God. This effect was not mediated by education level, income, political orientation, or other demographic variables. Study 2 showed that the correlation between CRT scores and belief in God also holds when cognitive ability (IQ) and aspects of personality were controlled. Moreover, both studies demonstrated that intuitive CRT responses predicted the degree to which individuals reported having strengthened their belief in God since childhood, but not their familial religiosity during childhood, suggesting a causal relationship between cognitive style and change in belief over time. Study 3 revealed such a causal relationship over the short term: Experimentally inducing a mindset that favors intuition over reflection increases self-reported belief in God.
[Keywords: reasoning, religion, religiosity, reflection, atheism.]
2007-schneider.pdf: “A Rule Against Perpetuities For The 21st Century”, (2007; ; ; similar):
The common law rule against perpetuities maintained alienation of property by voiding interests in property that did not vest within a life in being at the creation of the interest plus twenty-one years. The rule was applied strictly, often producing harsh results. The courts used a what-might-happen test to strike down nonvested interests that might not have vested in a timely manner. During the last half-century, many legislatures have softened the application of the rule against perpetuities by enacting wait-and-see provisions, which require courts to decide cases based on the facts as they actually developed, and reformation, which allowed some nonvested interests to be reformed to save them from invalidity.
This paper describes the common law rule. Then it traces the modern developments, including promulgation of the widely adopted Uniform Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities, which includes an alternate 90 year fixed wait-and-see period to be applied in place of the common law’s lives in being plus twenty-one years.
The paper continues by exploring the policies which underlie the rule against perpetuities. Then, after finding that there is no substantial movement to repeal the rule except for trusts, it is established that proposals for that federal law, including federal transfer taxes, cannot and should not be used to implement the policies served by the rule itself.
There is a continuing need for state rules against perpetuities. The paper proposes that the rule be modified to make it more understandable and easier to apply. The proposed rule would replace lives in being plus twenty-one years with a fixed term of years. This would eliminate most of the difficulties encountered in application of the rule. Wait-and-see and reformation are part of the proposed rule. The proposed rule provides for determination of valid interests at the end of the fixed term of year Rule and contains a definition of “vested” to enable judges and attorneys to apply the rule in cases which will arise many years in the future.
1984-caplow.pdf: “Rule Enforcement Without Visible Means: Christmas Gift Giving in Middletown”, (1984-05-01; ; similar):
As part of a much larger study of social change in Middletown (Muncie, Ind.), a random sample of adult residents was interviewed early in 1979 about celebrations of the previous Christmas. This paper describes the unwritten and largely unrecognized rules that regulate Christmas gift giving and associated rituals in this community and the effective enforcement of those rules without visible means. A theoretical explanation is proposed.
The Middletown III study is a systematic replication of the well-known study of a Midwestern industrial city conducted by Robert and Helen Lynd in the 1920s (Lynd & Lynd  1959) and partially replicated by them in the 1930s (Lynd & Lynd  1963). The fieldwork for Middletown III was conducted in 1976–79; its results have been reported in Middletown Families (Caplow et al 1982 [Middletown Families: Fifty Years of Change and Continuity]) and in 38 published papers by various authors; additional volumes and papers are in preparation. Nearly all this material is an assessment of the social changes that occurred between the 1920s and the 1970s in this one community, which is, so far, the only place in the United States that provides such long-term comprehensive sociological data. The Middletown III research focused on those aspects of social structure described by the Lynds in order to utilize the opportunities for longitudinal comparison their data afforded, but there was one important exception. The Lynds had given little attention to the annual cycle of religious-civic-family festivals (there were only 2 inconsequential references to Christmas in Middletown and none at all to Thanksgiving or Easter), but we found this cycle too important to ignore. The celebration of Christmas, the high point of the cycle, mobilizes almost the entire population for several weeks, accounts for about 4% of its total annual expenditures, and takes precedence over ordinary forms of work and leisure. In order to include this large phenomenon, we interviewed a random sample of 110 Middletown adults early in 1979 to discover how they and their families had celebrated Christmas in 1978. The survey included an inventory of all Christmas gifts given and received by these respondents. Although the sample included a few very isolated individuals, all of these had participated in Christmas giving in the previous year. The total number of gifts inventoried was 4,347, a mean of 39.5 per respondent. The distribution of this sample of gifts by type and value, by the age and sex of givers and receivers, and by gift-giving configurations has been reported elsewhere (Caplow 1982).
The following were among the findings: (1) 4 out of 5 Christmas gifts went to kin, and 4 out of 5 of these to close kin. (2) 57% of all gifts were a part of a multiple gift, that is, 2 or more gifts from the same giver(s) to the same receiver(s), and 59% of all gifts were joint, that is, from more than one giver or to more than one receiver. (3) The proportion of each class of kin relationships marked by Christmas gifts and the value of those gifts were roughly proportionate to the close ness of the kin relationship. (4) Women were much more active as gift givers than men; they selected most of the gifts given jointly by couples, gave more gifts singly than men, and did nearly all of the gift wrapping. (5) Although married women were largely responsible for Christmas gift giving, they did not favor their own relatives over their husbands’. Gifts to maternal relatives did not differ substantially in number or value from gifts to paternal relatives. (6) In gift giving, close affinal [in-law] relatives were equated with the linking consanguineous relative. For example, gifts to daughters-in-law were as numerous and valuable as gifts to married sons. (7) The flow of gifts between adults and children was heavily unbalanced. The respondents, all adult, gave about 7× as many gifts to children as they received in return. (8) Residential distance, which has a major effect on most forms of contact between kin, has only a minor influence on Christmas gift giving.
…Here are some typical gift-giving rules that are enforced effectively in Middletown without visible means of enforcement and indeed without any widespread awareness of their existence:
The Tree Rule:
Married couples with children of any age should put up Christmas trees in their homes. Unmarried persons with no living children should not put up Christmas trees. Unmarried parents (widowed, divorced, or adoptive) may put up trees but are not required to do so
Conformity with the Tree Rule in our survey sample may be fairly described as spectacular. Table 1 shows the distribution of Christmas trees by family situation in our respondents’ households. Of the 45 married respondents with children under 18, only 2 had no tree. One was a newly married woman who had spent the entire Christmas season with her husband’s parents in another state. The other was a recent immigrant from Venezuela who omitted the tree to demonstrate her refusal to be assimilated: “We try to keep our own culture”, she told the interviewer in explaining why she and her husband had set up a nativity scene instead. …Nobody in Middletown seems to be consciously aware of the norm that requires married couples with children of any age to put up a Christmas tree, yet the obligation is so compelling that, of the 77 respondents in this category who were at home for Christmas 1978, only one—the Venezuelan woman previously mentioned—failed to do so.
…THE WRAPPING RULE
Christmas gifts must be wrapped before they are presented.
A subsidiary rule requires that the wrapping be appropriate, that is, emblematic, and another subsidiary rule says that wrapped gifts are appropriately displayed as a set but that unwrapped gifts should not be so displayed. Conformity with these rules is exceedingly high. An unwrapped object is so clearly excluded as a Christmas gift that Middletown people who wish to give something at that season without defining it as a Christmas gift have only to leave the object unwrapped. Difficult-to-wrap Christmas gifts, like a pony or a piano, are wrapped symbolically by adding a ribbon or bow or card and are hidden until presentation…Picture taking at Christmas gatherings is clearly a part of the ritual; photographs were taken at 65% of the recorded gatherings. In nearly all instances, the pile of wrapped gifts was photographed; and individual participants were photographed opening a gift, ideally at the moment of “surprise.” Although the pile of wrapped gifts is almost invariably photographed, a heap of unwrapped gifts is not a suitable subject for the Christmas photographer. Among the 366 gatherings we recorded, there was a single instance in which a participant, a small boy, was photographed with all his unwrapped gifts. To display unwrapped gifts as a set seems to invite the invidious comparison of gifts—and of the relationships they represent.
THE DECORATION RULE
Any room where Christmas gifts are distributed should be decorated by affixing Christmas emblems to the walls, the ceiling, or the furniture.
This is done even in nondomestic places, like offices or restaurant dining rooms, if gifts are to be distributed there. Conformity to this rule was perfect in our sample of 366 gatherings at which gifts were distributed, although, once again, the existence of the rule was not recognized by the people who obeyed it. The same lack of recognition applies to the interesting subsidiary rule that a Christmas tree should not be put up in an undecorated place, although a decorated place need not have a tree.
THE GATHERING RULE
Christmas gifts should be distributed at gatherings where every person gives and receives gifts.
Compliance with this rule is very high. More than 9⁄10ths of the 1,378 gifts our respondents received, and of the 2,969 they gave, were distributed in gatherings, more than 3⁄4ths of which were family gatherings.
THE DINNER RULE
Family gatherings at which gifts are distributed include a “traditional Christmas dinner.”
This is a rule that participants in Middletown’s Christmas ritual may disregard if they wish, but it is no less interesting because compliance is only partial. Presumably, this rule acquired its elective character because the pattern of multiple gatherings described above requires many gatherings to be scheduled at odd hours when dinner either would be inappropriate or, if the dinner rule were inflexible, would require participants to overeat beyond the normal expectations of the season. However, 65% of the survey respondents had eaten at least one traditional Christmas dinner the previous year.
THE GIFT SELECTION RULES
A Christmas gift should (a) demonstrate the giver’s familiarity with the receiver’s preferences; (b) surprise the receiver, either by expressing more affection—measured by the aesthetic or practical value of the gift—than the receiver might reasonably anticipate or more knowledge than the giver might reasonably be expected to have; (c) be scaled in economic value to the emotional value of the relationship.
The economic values of any giver’s gifts are supposed to be sufficiently scaled to the emotional values of relationships that, when they are opened in the bright glare of the family circle, the donor will not appear to have disregarded either the legitimate inequality of some relationships by, for example, giving a more valuable gift to a nephew than to a son, or the legitimate equality of other relationships by, for example, giving conspicuously unequal gifts to 2 sons.
Individuals participating in these rituals are not free to improvise their own scales of emotional value for relationships. The scale they are supposed to use, together with its permissible variations, is not written down anywhere but is thoroughly familiar to participants. From analysis of the gifts given and received by our survey respondents, we infer the following rules for scaling the emotional value of relationships.
THE SCALING RULES
(a) A spousal relationship should be more valuable than any other for both husband and wife, but the husband may set a higher value on it than the wife. (b) A parent-child relationship should be less valuable than a spousal relationship but more valuable than any other relationship. The parent may set a higher value on it than the child does. (c) The spouse of a married close relative should be valued as much as the linking relative. (d) Parents with several children should value them equally throughout their lives. (e) Children with both parents still living, and still married to each other, may value them equally or may value their mothers somewhat more than their fathers. A married couple with 2 pairs of living, still-married parents should value each pair equally. Children of any age with divorced, separated, or remarried parents may value them unequally. (f) Siblings should be valued equally in childhood but not later. Adult siblings who live close by and are part of one’s active network should be equally valued, along with their respective spouses, but siblings who live farther away may be valued unequally. (g) Friends of either sex, aside from sexual partners treated as quasi-spouses, may be valued as much as siblings but should not be valued as much as spouses, parents, or children. (h) More distant relatives—like aunts or cousins—may be valued as much as siblings but should not be valued as much as spouses, parents, or children.
It is a formidable task to balance these ratios every year and to come up with a set of Christmas gifts that satisfies them. Small wonder that Middletown people complain that Christmas shopping is difficult and fatiguing. But although they complain, they persist in it year after year without interruption. People who are away from home for Christmas arrange in advance to have their gifts distributed to the usual receivers and to open their own gifts ceremoniously. People confined by severe illness delegate others to do shopping and wrapping. Although our random sample of Middletown adults included several socially isolated persons, even the single most isolated respondent happened to have an old friend with whom he exchanged expensive gifts.
…Money is an appropriate gift from senior to junior kin, but an inappropriate gift from junior to senior kin, regardless of the relative affluence of the parties. This is another rule which appears to be unknown to the people who obey it. Of 144 gifts of money given by persons in our sample to those in other generations, 94% went to junior kin, and of the 73 money gifts respondents received from persons in other generations, 93% were from senior kin.
…THE RECIPROCITY RULE
Participants in this gift system should give (individually or jointly) at least one Christmas gift every year to their mothers, fathers, sons, daughters; to the current spouses of these persons; and to their own spouses.
By the operation of this rule, participants expect to receive at least one gift in return from each of these persons excepting infants. Conformity runs about 90% for each relationship separately and for the aggregate of all such relationships. Gifts to grandparents and grandchildren seem to be equally obligatory if these live in the. same community or nearby, but not at greater distances (see Caplow 1982, Table 6). Christmas gifts to siblings are not required. Only about 1⁄3rd of the 274 sibling relationships reported by the sample were marked by Christmas gifts. The proportion was no higher for siblings living close than for those farther away. However, gifts to siblings do call for a return gift; this obligation is seldom scanted. Gift giving to siblings’ children, and parents’ siblings and their respective spouses, appears to be entirely elective; fewer than half of these are reciprocated.
…Empirically, the gift giving between adults and children in our sample was highly unbalanced, in both quantity and value. Respondents gave 946 gifts to persons under 18 and received 145 in return; 89 of these were of substantial value and 6 of the return gifts were. In about 1⁄3rd of these relationships, no gift was returned to the adult either by the child or in the child’s name. In most of the remaining relationships, the child returned a single gift of token or modest value.
1980-caplow.pdf: “Decoding Middletown’s Easter bunny: A study in American iconography”, (1980; ; ; similar):
“Christmas didn’t seem real down there”, Middletown people say after they have returned from a stay in Florida or in Southern California. In Middletown’s region, the Christmas festival marks with fair accuracy the onset of an indoor season when everyone’s dependence upon social networks for shelter, warmth, protection, and food is dramatically evident. The Christmas tree itself is brought inside. Meanwhile, nothing happens outside; the trees are leafless, the gardens are dormant, many of the birds have migrated, and few wild things are seen. Like people, domesticated animals depend on the social network for survival. Easter, the opposing festival, suitably marks both the end of winter and the relaxation of social dependence, as children and adults reemerge into the open air and the activities of nature are renewed.
…We are now in a position to see that the Easter bunny and Santa Claus stand for emphasis on the kinds of social relationship found in their respective contexts. Santa Claus is a paternal—even a grand-paternal-figure—old, experienced, prosperous, married—and he nurtures children. He comes in from outdoors to leave his presents, in keeping with the Christmas theme of protection from the elements. Note the common Christmas card pictures of people indoors cozily watching snowfall outdoors, or people wrapped in warm clothes skating or riding in a sleigh, or children in bed waiting for Santa. Even the presents are wrapped up. The Easter bunny, by contrast, has no name, no social relationships, and no home; he belongs exclusively to the outdoors. Even his sex is confused by his distribution of eggs. Moreover, the Easter bunny takes eggs produced and normally kept indoors and hides them outside in nature to be hunted for. Christmas is a festival in which each social relationship is emphasized and clarified, while at Easter all social relationships are blurred, just as in the religious iconography of Easter death is canceled by resurrection and adults are reborn by baptism—i.e., the natural states of life and death are confounded (Warner 1961: 369–370). Once again, the religious and secular complexes are seen to be distinct but wonderfully mitered together. And once again, the religious complex confers a sense of worth and a hint of transcendent meaning upon the secular festival and its vulgar celebration of fine weather and new clothes.
…The 2 contrasting attitudes toward children are present also in the religious iconographies of these festivals…The Easter bunny is no moralist. He does not discriminate in his treatment of good children and bad children as Santa Claus does. His gifts are unconditional and more or less undirected. Indeed, the more we explore the list of his ambiguous attributes, the more inescapable the comparison with Santa Claus becomes. Above all, the Easter bunny is the total opposite of Santa Claus, and it is in this opposition that we may find the key to the symbolic meaning of both.
“Buddha's Lists”, (; ):
A book by David N. Snyder, Ph.D., published in 2006, which was an Amazon.com bestseller, at the #1 position among Theravada books sold in March–April 2006. The book was in the Top 10 for over 80 weeks from 2006 to 2009. The book includes over 600 of the Buddha’s lists and relies heavily on the Anguttara Nikaya [WP] of the Buddhist scriptures.
- About the author and Acknowledgments
- Foreword: The Four Evolutionary Stages of Religion by Venerable Madewela Punnaji
- Introduction; The Nine Ways not to accept something as true
- The Four Noble Truths
- The Eightfold Middle Path, The Five Precepts, The Threefold Summaries and The Triple Gem
- The 12 parts of Dependent Origination and the Three causes of karma
- The 31 Planes of Existence
- The 10,000 World Systems; Buddha and Science
- The Three Characteristics of Existence and the Five Aggregates
- The One Prerequisite to being a Brahmin; The Buddha on Equality
- The Eight Points in the Lankavatara Sutra; Buddha on the Human Animal
- The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
- The 40 Meditation Subjects
- The Five Hindrances to Meditation and the Nine Jhanas
- The 13 Major Meditation Rx for Total Wellness
- The Four Supreme Efforts and the Four Divine Emotions
- The 84,000 Dharma Doors; Buddha and Tolerance
- The Ten Hindrances to Enlightenment, the Four Stages of Realization, and the Ten Perfections
- Completing the Eightfold Wheel of Dhamma
- The Seven Directions of Loving-Kindness and other reference prayers and meditations
- The Seven Enlightenment Factors and a Step-by-Step Guide to Awakening
- Other Lists of The Buddha: Over 600 Lists