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The article in the issue 8:3:

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Kyle J. Messick, Lluis Oviedo, Jay R. Feierman, Igor Mikloušić, Justin E. Lane, Victoria Alogna, Jesse Bering, Evan Balkcom, Jamin Halberstadt,

Victoria Alogna received her B.S. (hons) in psychology from the University of Scranton and completed her Ph.D. and postdoctoral research at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Her research focusses on understanding the cognitive mechanisms that facilitates religious belief and unbelief, and how these beliefs translate to behavior.

Jesse Bering is Associate Professor and Director of The Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago. A specialist in the cognitive science of religion, he is the author of The Belief Instinct (2011, W. W. Norton) and three other books. His experimental research on the intuitive foundations of afterlife beliefs, as well as other studies in the psychology of religion, are regarded as landmark contributions to the discipline. As a popular science writer, Jesse has also written on the subject of religion (specifically, on the nature of unbelief) for a wide range of media outlets, including The Guardian, Scientific American, Slate, and many others. His latest book is A Very Human Ending: How Suicide Haunts our Species (2018, Doubleday).

Evan Balkcom is originally from the US and currently a PhD candidate in psychology and science communication at the University of Otago. His main area of focus is the cognitive science of religion. Specifically, researching the differences between religious and non-religious people and the way that unbelief develops and is maintained in light of religious intuitions and unexplainable experiences. Evan is also interested in irrational decision making, especially the sort that is driven by essentialist beliefs and moral contagion.

Jamin Halberstadt received his B.A. in philosophy from Swarthmore College, and his Ph.D. in social cognition at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is currently a full professor and incoming Head of Department at the University of Otago, in Dunedin, New Zealand. His eclectic research interests include emotion and decision making, social categorization and aesthetics, religious cognition, and “in vivo behavioral tracking,” a methodology he pioneered to permit the experimental study of large groups in unfettered contexts (e.g., a sports stadium). He has authored and co-authored over 100 articles and book chapters and is currently a Senior Editor at Psychological Science, the field’s premier outlet for empirical research.


Religious Intuitions and the Nature of "Belief"

Scientific interest in religion often focusses on the “puzzle of belief”: how
people develop and maintain religious beliefs despite a lack of evidence and
the significant costs that those beliefs incur. A number of researchers have
suggested that humans are predisposed towards supernatural thinking, with
innate cognitive biases engendering, for example, the misattribution of
intentional agency. Indeed, a number of studies have shown that nonbelievers
often act “as if” they believe. For example, atheists are reluctant to sell the very souls they deny having, or to angrily provoke the God they explicitly state does
not exist. In our own recent work, participants who claimed not to believe in
the afterlife nevertheless demonstrated a physiological fear response when
informed that there was a ghost in the room. Such findings are often interpreted
as evidence for an “implicit” belief in the supernatural that operates alongside
(and even in contradiction to) an individual's conscious (“explicit”) religious
belief. In this article, we investigate these arguably tenuous constructs more
deeply and suggest some possible empirical directions for further disentangling
implicit and explicit reasoning.


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