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Jamin Halberstadt

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”

Issue: 8:3 (the thirty first issue)
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.