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Call Text:

1.      Current Theories and Applications of the Cognitive Science of Religion. This call is intentionally broad in scope. We invite scholars who are using current cognitive theories and/or applied research in the study of religion, religions, or religious-related phenomena to submit a proposal for a paper or panel session for inclusion in the 2021 AAR-CSR Unit’s sessions.

2.      Book panel on Robert McCauley and George Graham’s, “Hearing Voices and Other Matters of the Mind: What Mental Abnormalities Can Teach Us About Religions” (Oxford University Press, 2020). This panel includes a presentation by the authors, followed by responses from panelists from the perspective of religious studies, psychiatry, psychology, and cultural anthropology.

3.      Neuroscientific and Cognitive Approaches to Conversion (co-sponsorship with the Religious Conversions Unit): this call invites papers grounded in cognitive and/or neuroscientific approaches to understanding religious conversion. Potential topics include brain-based technologies for spiritual enhancement (e.g., "Spirit Tech" by Wildman and Stockly); spiritual practices' effects on the brain (e.g., "When God Talks Back" by Tanya Luhrmann); the reliationship between mindfulness, meditation and neuroplasticity; and similar topics.

4.      Evolutionary approaches to the cognitive science of religion. We invite scholars who are using current evolutionary theories and/or applied research (e.g., cultural evolution, by-product and adaptationist arguments, gene-culture co-evolution, etc.) in the study of religious ritual and behavior, as well as the formation and persistence of religions, religious groups, and religious-related phenomena to submit a proposal for a paper or panel session for inclusion in the 2021 AAR-CSR Unit’s sessions.

Mission Statement:

This Unit is dedicated to advancing cognitive scientific approaches to the study of religion in a critically informed, historically responsible manner. “Cognitive science” designates a broadly interdisciplinary approach to the study of the mind that integrates research from the neurosciences, psychology (including developmental, cognitive, evolutionary, and social psychology), anthropology, and philosophy. The main goal of this Unit is to bring together cognitive scientists, historians of religion, ethnographers, empirically-oriented theologians, and philosophers of religion to explore applications of cognitive science to religious phenomena, as well as religious insights into the study of the human mind. We wish to consider ways in which historical and ethnographic data can be used to test theories and discuss theoretical and methodological concerns that are directly relevant to study design and data interpretation.

Method of Submission:




Hillary Lenfesty, lenfesty@asu.edu

Paul Robertson, paul.robertson@unh.edu


Steering Committee:

Jed Forman, jed.forman@gmail.com

Glen Hayes, glen_hayes@bloomfield.edu

Kate Stockly, kstockly@bu.edu

Claire White, clairejwhite81@gmail.com

Wesley J. Wildman, wwildman@bu.edu 

Connor Wood, connorpw@bu.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 2 – Two 2-hour sessions

Next Review: 2022