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Kevin J Eames

Abstract

The transmission of religious belief systems is hypothesized to result from certain innate cognitive faculties with which all humans are endowed. Research from the cognitive science of religion suggests that we have faculties that are highly sensitive to detecting agency in environmental stimuli and are more likely to remember those agents when they violate expectations that are otherwise consistent with the ontological categories to which they belong. These so-called minimally counterintuitive agents are more easily remembered than intuitive agents. Frequently, explanatory power and morally strategic information are often attributed to these counterintuitive agents, qualifying them as “gods,†around which belief systems are formed and transmitted. These belief systems are maintained through the practice of formal rituals, some of which are emotionally evocative while others are more routine.    KEYWORDS: cognitive science of religion, hypersensitive agency detection device, minimally counterintuitive agents, ontological categories, gods

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