PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Atlanta, GA
November 21-24, 2015

AAR Sessions (PDF)

Additional Meeting Sessions (PDF)

Session Index (PDF)

Participant Index (PDF)

Session Locations (PDF)

Exhibitor Index and Exhibit Hall Maps (PDF)

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Cognitive Science of Religion Group

Statement of Purpose: 

This Group is dedicated to advancing cognitive scientific approaches to the study of religion in a critically informed, historically responsible manner. “Cognitive science” designates a broadly interdisciplinary approach to the study of the mind that integrates research from the neurosciences, psychology (including developmental, cognitive, evolutionary, and social psychology), anthropology, and philosophy. The main goal of this Group is to bring together cognitive scientists, historians of religion, ethnographers, empirically-oriented theologians, and philosophers of religion to explore applications of cognitive science to religious phenomena, as well as religious insights into the study of the human mind. We wish to consider ways in which historical and ethnographic data can be used to test theories and discuss theoretical and methodological concerns that are directly relevant to study design and data interpretation.

Call for Papers: 

The Cognitive Science of Religion Group welcomes individual Paper Proposals, Papers Session Proposals, and Round Table Proposals on the specific topics below and on all topics related to the Cognitive Science of Religion. Preference is typically given to fully formed panels that are submitted as a Papers Session or Round Table Proposal.

Topic: Experimental philosophy meets the Cognitive Science of Religion (the relationship between research, methodological considerations, and theories of both).
Topic: Applied dimensions of CSR research: The “So What?” Question (including on religion and violence for possible co-sponsorship with the Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence Group).
Topic: Religion and Morality (including research from moral psychology).
Topic: Religion, Emotion, and Belief? (for possible quad-sponsorship with the Religious Experience in Antiquity Group (SBL); the Science, Religion, and Technology Group; the Religion, Affect, and Emotion Group);
How can recent approaches from the natural and social sciences help scholars of religion to better understand the religious experience of belief? Is belief a natural product of affective and cognitive processes? What role does emotion play in belief? Does the role of emotion and belief function differently in “science” and “religion”? How do religions use emotion to cultivate the believing religious subject? Is there room for a model of self and subjectivity that goes beyond self-cultivation, in which a subject is being acted upon (ethics of passion)? What are the distinct benefits and limitations to conceptualizing religious belief in these ways?

Please contact and submit your proposals for consideration to the Papers Session organizer, who in turn is responsible for inputting them into the Program Administration Proposal, Evaluation, Review, and Submission System (PAPERS).

Topic/Title: "Cross-Cultural and Cognitive Approaches to Changes in Sense of Self"
Papers Session Organizer: Jared Lindahl (Brown University),
"Interest in either unexpected and sudden changes in sense of self associated with religious experiences, or in deliberately pursued changes in sense of self cultivated through religious practices. Changes in sense of self could include depersonalization, derealization, and other forms of dissociation (such as out-of-body experiences)."

Topic/Title: "Critical Review of The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Theory of Religion
Papers Session Organizer: Jason Slone ( and James Van Slyke (

The Attraction of Religion: A New Evolutionary Theory of Religion (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) is a collection of essays that proposes a new theoretical framework for explaining religiosity, a framework that draws on sexual selection theory in evolutionary psychology, an emerging field that integrates psychology and anthropology with evolutionary biology. The book champions the theory that religiosity is widespread because it helps people manage adaptive problems related to mating and reproduction -- by, for example, facilitating mate attraction, selection, and retention, and encouraging long-term pair-bonding, fidelity, and parental investment. This session will critically evaluate the book’s claims."

Topic/Title: "Can we now hack the religious mind?" (for possible co-sponsorship with the Transhumanism and Religion Group)
Papers Session Proposal Organizer: Don Braxton,
“Cognitive Science has made significant progress in explaining how the normal human mind produces religious ideas. What it has not done, and cannot do as a science, is offer advice on how to put that knowledge to use to improve human life. By contrast, transhumanism seeks explicitly to put scientific knowledge to work to improve human life beyond its normal functioning. This panel wants to place these two intellectual currents in dialogue to see how the mind, as cognitive science explains it, can be upgraded in terms of the quality of religious life. What counts as an upgrade is left to the panel participants to articulate and defend.
Papers are welcome on topics that include:
-- How can we limit or eliminate the least desirable outputs of religion (e.g, tribal violence, science denial, etc.) in our world given what cognitive science tells us?
-- How can we encourage the most desirable outputs of religion (e.g. prosocial behavior, self-esteem improvement) in our world given what cognitive science tells us?
-- Are there novel forms of religion that might be possible with a little mind-tweaking? If so, what are they, and why do you think such novel forms are possible?"

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee