Psychology of Religion

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The God-Shaped Elephant

Most of the health psychology of religion sub-sub-field suffers less from a God-shaped hole and more of a God-shaped elephant sitting in the room that usually goes undiscussed. The most important, but always implicit, mechanism in these studies is God.
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Nonreligion, Religion, and Public Health

The link between religion/spirituality (RS) and health is a recurring theme in the empirical literature within the psychology and sociology of religion, medical studies, and other disciplines. Although this research is usually limited to correlational studies, RS is often interpreted to be an important causal factor in positive health outcomes. This has led some academics, NGO's, and governments to argue that the putative health benefits of RS might be harnessed for public health and public policy more broadly. For example, the United States Army has recently launched a “spiritual health” program, and in the United Kingdom there is an ongoing debate about whether mindfulness meditation should be taught in schools. Government initiatives aside, what if the nonreligious are equally as healthy? In this podcast, Thomas J. Coleman III interviews Dr. David Speed on how research using nonreligious and nonbelieving samples problematizes some of the underlying assumptions of the relationship between RS and public health.
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Putting an Umbrella Over a Bridge

Author’s cat demonstrating the utility of having an overarching framework for discussing topics pertinent to religious studies within interdisciplinary contexts. Trying to squeeze “(non)religious and/or (non)spiritual identifications, beliefs, and/or practices are important to [psychology topic] because…” into a 150-word abstract for a conference paper is cumbersome, at best.
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Worldviews and Ways of Life

Ann Taves joins us to discuss her work arguing that we should study religions under the broader rubric of "worldviews" and "ways of life". This ambitious interdisciplinary project aims to place a micro-level analysis of individual worldviews into a broader evolutionary perspective.
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Religious cliché and stigma

As part of the podcast on pervasive clichés, Chris Cotter interviews Brad Stoddard and Craig Martin regarding their recent work how popular clichés are enculturated within our culture. This conversation explores how clichés are both useful and detrimental to the study of religion in that they frame expectations about religion and speak to the social expectations of religious groups by others.
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Autism, Religion, and Imagination

spectrum represent a unique population of study in the cognitive and psychological sciences of religion. Because religious cognition stems from normal social-cognitive capacities, which are altered for individuals on the spectrum, researchers also expect variation in how they think about supernatural agents.
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The Legacy of Edward Tylor – Roundtable

This roundtable recorded at the annual BASR conference at the University of Chester 2017 brought together a group of scholars interested in different perspectives on the legacy of Tylor. Topics discussed included his impact on indigenous societies, the debates over animism,
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‘Modelling Religion’ and the Integration of the Sciences and the Humanities in the Bio-cultural Study of Religion

Following his Albert Moore Memorial Lecture at Otago University, celebrating 50 years of Religious Studies at Otago, Professor Wesley Wildman talks to Thomas White regarding the integration of the sciences and the humanities in his bio-cultural approach to the study of religion.
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Witchcraft in Rural Slovenia

Based on her ethnographic fieldwork in the area, Mencej describes witchcraft from a variety of angles, from psychological to anthropological and historical, providing a detailed understanding of witchcraft as part of the lived social reality of the community. In what kind of situations are witchcraft narratives evoked?
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Embodied religious practices, child psychology and cognitive neuroscience

Bahler discusses the notion of ritual as a locus of power in terms of structure and agency. His recent book, Childlike Peace in Levinas and Merleau-Ponty. Intersubjectivity as a Dialectical Spiral (Lexington Books, forthcoming) focuses on neuroscience to grasp the topic power relations at the confluence of religion and other social influences on one’s trajectories.
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DEATH, Religion, and Terror Management Theory

Psychologist Dr. Jonathan Jong draws on experimental research utilizing terror management theory to discuss the role of religious and other worldviews in assuaging the fear of the inevitable—DEATH. One year before his own death in 1790, Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to the French scientist Jean-Baptiste,
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Method and Theory in the Cognitive Sciences of Religion

Recorded at the 2015 North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) conference, Robert McCauley discusses methodological and theoretical issues within the cognitive sciences of religion. "Science surprises us!" - McCauley podcast with the Religious Studies Project in 2014, Dr. Robert McCauley gave an overview of some of these ...
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SPSP 2016 Report: The state of religion in social and personality psychology

This past January, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology had its biggest turn out to date for its 17th Annual Convention in San Diego, California. Despite religion, as a broad category of research, all to often being missing in action in the psychological sciences, researchers embracing the study of religion were hard to miss throughout SPSP 2016. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Adam Baimel, University of British Columbia.
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See you in the next life? Cognitive foundations of reincarnation beliefs

Human reincarnation: Same person, different body, another life. While conceptual scaffolding surrounding the idea of reincarnation can vary widely from culture to culture, in this podcast Claire White draws on some of her recent research pointing out that many similarities exist in how individuals reason about and discern the pre-rebirth identities of the reincarnated.
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Mysticism, Spirituality, and Boats at the IAPR 2015 World Congress

The International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) 2015 World Congress was held on August 17th-20th. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Alex Uzdavines, a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University. The International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) 2015 World Congress was held on August 17th-20th. Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by Alex Uzdavines, a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University.
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2015 APA Convention Report (Religion and Spirituality Research)

Conference report for The Religious Studies Project by David Bradley, a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University. The American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention was held in Toronto, Ontario from August 6 through August 9, 2015. Conferences often have an organizing theme, but the APA Convention is simply too big to be focused on one or two themes.
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‘Religious’ and ‘Spiritual’ Struggles: Now in ‘Nonreligious’ and ‘Nonspiritual’ flavors!

In this interview, Dr. Julie Exline discusses what led to her interest in Struggles and some of the background behind the development of the Religious and Spiritual Struggle Scale. She goes on to talk about why the scale includes struggles relevant to both religious believers and nonbelievers and how this work related to some of her current work on god images in both groups.
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Self-Report: We Can Do Better (And Are!)

Those of us within psychology of religion who study secularity are privileged to be working in a time where secular beliefs and nonbelievers are starting to be taken seriously within the field as a whole. The Religious Studies Project interview with Dr. Luke Galen conducted by Tommy Coleman was an excellent cross-section of some of the a long way to go in figuring ...
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Is Religion Special? A Critical Look at Religion, Wellbeing and Prosociality

Is religion good for your health and wellbeing? Does religion promote prosociality? While positive stereotypes prevail in these domains, studies also typically answer these questions in the affirmative and as such, it is easy to think that there must be something special, sui generis, ...
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“Practice What You Preach”: CREDs and CRUDs

Religious actions speak louder than words. Dr. Jonathan Lanman on credibility enhancing displays (CREDs), and the role that such public displays of commitment play in the acquisition of both belief and nonbelief.Actions typically speak louder than words. A common version of this statement - practice ...
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Psychology of Religion at Its Best…and Less Best

In this hard-hitting report, Alex Uzdavines reflects on the highs and lows of his recent experience at the American Psychological Association Division 36 Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 2015 Mid-Year Conference hosted by Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, United States on March 20th and 21st 2015.
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The Psychology of Prayer: An interview with Kevin Ladd

Ladd begins the interview by discussing what it means to pray. Perhaps most important, he explains how prayer is defined for research purposes, emphasizing that there is no essential definition, nor is one desirable. In taking care to uphold a scientific understanding of prayer, rather than a theologically apologetic one,...
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Psychology of What? Religion, Spirituality, or Meaning: In Search of a Proper Name for The Field of Psychology of Religion

In many writings, the term spirituality is credited with the positive and the term religiosity is credited with the negative. Dr. Schnell shifts the focus from the content and valence of these concepts to how valuable these concepts are for individuals. Psychology of religion provides an avenue of theoretical and methodologically empirical inquiry into the study of belief and experience. Particularly, the individual’s experience, both personal and social,...
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Sources of Meaning and Meaning in Life – An interview with Tatjana Schnell

Recently, scholars have placed the concept of ‘meaning making’ as an important area of focus within psychology of religion. Some people find meaning in religious or spiritual experience and beliefs while others find meaning on more secular mediums in life. However, if humans are truly on a “search for meaning”, as Frankl has argued, what might be some of the sources of such meaning?
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RSP Psychology of Religion Participatory Panel Special

The RSP Psychology of Religion Participatory Panel Special took place during the International Association for the Psychology of Religion 2013 world congress this August in Switzerland, hosted at the at the University of Lausanne. We asked for the RSP listeners to steer the conversation and YOU responded with tough questions...
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Ralph Hood on Mysticism

Dr. Ralph W. Hood Jr. has extensive experience in the field of psychology of religion and particularly in the study of mysticism and mystical experience. As an early pioneer in the renaissance of the field of psychology of religion, Hood’s work is extensive and prolific exploring a variety of research topics in the social sciences of religion.
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A New Approach to Faith Development Theory

"...the study of religion, spirituality, and faith [...] cannot be explored through simply descriptive statistics or only quantitative models but rather complex qualitative and empirical methods within sophisticated designs." Fowler’s Faith Development Theory has been most influential in guiding religious and spiritual research. However, while this theory is highly regarded in the realm of developmental psychology, controversy abounds regarding the validity of the faith development model. Heinz Strieb,
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Religious Experience

In this wide-ranging interview (our 50th!), Ann Taves and David Wilson discuss the concept of religious experience. Taves challenges traditional models of religious experience, rejecting both an essentialist approach with a sui generis category and a constructivist approach which accepts only discourses. Instead, she argues that not only can we examine unusual experiences in themselves, ...
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Faith Development Theory

Over ten years ago, Streib saw applicability to Fowler’s stages, but not in their typical empirical application. Heinz realized that Fowler’s descriptions had descriptive utility in how individuals structure and formalize their belief, but he also recognized that the graduated method of “stages” was empirically and culturally problematic. For Streib, these systems of meaning were not passé or scant in any way, only different.