Cognitive Anthroplogy does not pretend to study each and every phenomenon described by the word 'religion'. It is concerned with things often found in great religious institutions, but not only there, and that certainly happen in a more or less overt way, in every single human brain. These things are counter-intuitive beliefs and actions accomplished by deference.
Counter-intuitive beliefs are beliefs that look utterly absurd to everyone but those who share them. For example, it is counter-intuitive that spirits thirsty for perfume invade the body of mortals, that a piece of bread transforms each week into the flesh of a dead god, or that human twins are birds. Counter-intuitive beliefs are not necessarily false. Several theories try to account for their spread and success: according to one of these, counter-intuitive beliefs are not really held by those who profess them; rather, they are accepted through trust in supposedly more knowledgeable people. Counter-intuitive beliefs, one might say, are held between mental inverted commas. Another theory has it that the success of such beliefs is due to their special affinities with evolved mental devices, naive theories.
Acts accomplished by deference are actions whose outcome is nowhere to be perceived, or comes in such a way that any other action could have brought them. There again, scholars wonder if people's intuitions concerning what is agency, what is a cause, etc. suffice to explain for such malfunctions of human action.
|ε ψ α||Boyer, Pascal (1992), Causal Understanding in Cultural Representation: cognitive constraints on inference from cultural input|
|ε ψ α||Sperber, Dan (1982), Les Croyances apparemment irationnelles (apparently irrational beliefs)|
|ε ψ α||Bloch, Maurice (2006), Are Religious Beliefs Counter-Intuitive?|
|ε ψ α||Boyer, Pascal (1999), Religion Explained (Et l'Homme créa les dieux)|
|ε ψ α||Bulbulla, Joseph (2004), The Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology of Religion|
|ε ψ α||Barrett JL (2000), Exploring the natural foundations of religion|
|ε ψ α||Boyer P & Barrett C (2000), Evolved Intuitive Ontology: Integrating Neural, Behavioural and Developmental Aspects of Domain-Specificity|
|ε ψ α||Stich S (2000), L'homme est-il un animal rationnel|
|ε ψ α||Lestel D (2000), Les origines animales de la culture|
|ε ψ α||Nichols, S (2004), “Is Religion What We Want? Motivation and the Cultural Transmission of Religious Representations,”|
|ε ψ α||Van Gelder, Tim (0), Teaching Critical Thinking: some lessons from cognitive Science|
|ε ψ α||Tetlock PE (2003), Thinking the unthinkable: sacred values and taboo cognition|
|ε ψ α||Bekoff M, Colin A & Burghardt GM (2002), The cognitive animal Empirical and theoretical perspectives on animal cognition|
If you have time...
|ε ψ α||Dunbar, Robin (1998), The Social Brain Hypothesis|
|ε ψ α||Boudon R (1999), The Origin of Values: Sociology and Philosophy of Beliefs|
|ε ψ α||Boyer, Pascal (1988), Barricades Mystérieuses et Pièges à Pensée: introduction à l'analyse des Epopées Fang|
|ε ψ α||Budiansky, S. (2001), the truth about dogs|
|ε ψ α||Sosis, R; Ruffle, BJ (2003), Religious Ritual and Cooperation: testing for a relationship on Israeli Religious and Secular Kibbutzim|
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