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Cognitive Studies: Chances and Challenges

B079
Session Chair: Johannes Bronkhorst | Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Benjamin Purzycki

Representational Models of Gods’ Minds in Eight Diverse Societies: An Ecological Account

Some attempts to explain the ubiquity of god concepts suggest that because they have “socially strategic knowledge”, they are especially salient and memorable. From a cultural ecological framework, a compatible but more nuanced view predicts that as religion minimizes the deleterious effects of locally specific problems of coordination and cooperation, and gods function as difficult-to-verify sources of motivation and reminders, what the gods care about should correspond to such problems. Up until now, there has been a dearth of reliable and comparable cross-cultural data attending to representational models of gods’ concerns and the degree to which they overlap with local cultural models of the socially strategic. With data collected on fifteen different gods from eight diverse societies, we present evidence that what the gods care about are important indices to understanding the function and evolution of religious systems and highlight the impact that local ecological problems have on religious cognition.

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