Showing posts from November, 2017

The cultural buck stops somewhere: the origin of supernatural belief and the role of agency detection

(Commentary on "Seeking the Supernatural: The Interactive Religious Experience Model" by Neil Van Leeuwen & Michiel van Elk, target paper for Religion, Brain & Behavior by )
When I was a kid I used to pray in front of a glow-in-the-dark statue of the Virgin Mary. To “enhance” my telepathic connection with the Mother of God, I would rapidly flick the light switch of my room on and off, in the hope of eliciting some sort of anomalous visual experience (to no avail). As Van Leeuwen and van Elk would put it, I had absorbed “general beliefs” about the Mother of God from my parents and teachers, and I had even received a material “prop” (from my grandmother), but no-one had instructed me about the light switch. I was “actively seeking” personal experiences of the supernatural in a more or less creative fashion, in order to support my general beliefs.
Anecdotes aside, I applaud Van Leeuwen and van Elk’s interactive model of religious belief, which clearly moves the debate fo…