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ERIC Number: EJ809711
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Sep
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 61
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Variation in the Anthropomorphization of Supernatural Beings and Its Implications for Cognitive Theories of Religion
Shtulman, Andrew
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v34 n5 p1123-1138 Sep 2008
The cognitive study of religion has been highly influenced by P. Boyer's (2001, 2003) claim that supernatural beings are conceptualized as persons with counterintuitive properties. The present study tests the generality of this claim by exploring how different supernatural beings are conceptualized by the same individual and how different individuals conceptualize the same supernatural beings. In Experiment 1, college undergraduates decided whether three types of human properties (psychological, biological, physical) could or could not be attributed to two types of supernatural beings (religious, fictional). On average, participants attributed more human properties to fictional beings, like fairies and vampires, than to religious beings, like God and Satan, and they attributed more psychological properties than nonpsychological properties to both. In Experiment 2, 5-year-old children and their parents made both open-ended and closed-ended property attributions. Although both groups of participants attributed a majority of human properties to the fictional beings, children attributed a majority of human properties to the religious beings as well. Taken together, these findings suggest that anthropomorphic theories of supernatural-being concepts, though fully predictive of children's concepts, are only partially predictive of adults' concepts. (Contains 6 tables and 4 figures.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A