Supernatural believers attribute more intentions to random movement than skeptics: An fMRI study

  title={Supernatural believers attribute more intentions to random movement than skeptics: An fMRI study},
  author={Tapani J J Riekki and Marjaana Lindeman and Tuukka T. Raij},
  journal={Social Neuroscience},
  pages={400 - 411}
A host of research has attempted to explain why some believe in the supernatural and some do not. One suggested explanation for commonly held supernatural beliefs is that they are a by-product of theory of mind (ToM) processing. However, this does not explain why skeptics with intact ToM processes do not believe. We employed fMRI to investigate activation differences in ToM-related brain circuitries between supernatural believers (N = 12) and skeptics (N = 11) while they watched 2D animations… Expand
Priming of supernatural agent concepts and agency detection
In evolutionary approaches to religion it is argued that belief in supernatural agents is strongly related to a perceptual bias to over-detect the presence of agents in the environment. We reportExpand
Mentalizing skills do not differentiate believers from non-believers, but credibility enhancing displays do
The ability to mentalize has been marked as an important cognitive mechanism enabling belief in supernatural agents and the importance of cultural learning for acquiring supernatural beliefs is highlighted and reconsiderations of the value of mentalizing are asked. Expand
Overlapping Mental Magisteria: Implications of Experimental Psychology for a Theory of Religious Belief as Misattribution
Subjective religious and spiritual experiences ( RS ) are believed by many to be reliable indicators of external agency. A set of related phenomena are used to support this view that typicallyExpand
Seeking the supernatural: the Interactive Religious Experience Model
ABSTRACT We develop a new model of how human agency-detection capacities and other socio-cognitive biases are involved in forming religious beliefs. Crucially, we distinguish general religiousExpand
Brain mechanisms in religion and spirituality: An integrative predictive processing framework
  • M. Elk, A. Aleman
  • Medicine, Psychology
  • Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
  • 2017
The theory of predictive processing is presented as a unifying framework to account for the neurocognitive basis of religion and spirituality and the philosophical and theological implications of neuroscientific research on Religion and spirituality are discussed. Expand
Predicting the supernatural
sensory suppression. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 2(2), 121–157. van Elk, M. (2015b). Perceptual biases in relation to paranormal and conspiracy beliefs. PloS One, 10(6), 1–15. vanExpand
Where Do Gods Come From
Religiosity-belief in supernatural beings-is culturally universal, thus quite likely part of universal human nature. How can evolutionary psychology explain it? I survey one extant theory ofExpand
Someone is pulling the strings: hypersensitive agency detection and belief in conspiracy theories
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Flowers in the Attic: Lateralization of the detection of meaning in visual noise
Results were consistent with a rapid evidence-accumulation process of the kind described by a diffusion decision model mediating the task lateralized to the left-hemisphere, and this was negatively correlated to the unusual experiences dimension of schizotypy. Expand
A De Jure Criticism of Theism
Abstract An evolutionary by-product explanation entails that religious belief is an unintended consequence of a cognitive process selected for by evolution. In this paper, I argue that if aExpand


Understanding the intentions behind man-made products elicits neural activity in areas dedicated to mental state attribution.
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Two Takes on the Social Brain: A Comparison of Theory of Mind Tasks
We compared two tasks that are widely used in research on mentalizingfalse belief stories and animations of rigid geometric shapes that depict social interactionsto investigate whether the neuralExpand
Believing in the purpose of events—why does it occur, and is it supernatural?
What is the cognitive basis for the common belief that random events have a purpose, and are these beliefs a form of supernatural thinking, as Bering has suggested? Two questionnaire studies withExpand
Thinking about intentions
It is found that holding in mind an intention to act and at the same time thinking about an intentional action led to reduced activity in a dorsal section of the mPFC, close to the region activated in Theory of Mind tasks. Expand
Prayer as an interpersonal relationship: A neuroimaging study
This fMRI study describes neural correlates of prayer during periods in which people report in after-scan surveys that they felt the presence of God. Participants were part of a broad movement inExpand
Mentalizing Deficits Constrain Belief in a Personal God
The autism spectrum predicted reduced belief in God, and mentalizing mediated this relationship, and systemizing and two personality dimensions related to religious belief, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness, failed as mediators. Expand
Cognitive biases explain religious belief, paranormal belief, and belief in life’s purpose
The model found that the previously known relationship between mentalizing and belief is mediated by individual differences in dualism, and to a lesser extent by teleological thinking, which is most consistent with a path model suggesting that mentalizing comes first, which leads to dualism and teleology, which in turn lead to religious, paranormal, and life's-purpose beliefs. Expand
Understanding Intentions in Social Interaction: The Role of the Anterior Paracingulate Cortex
It is demonstrated that distinct areas of the neural system underlying theory of mind are specialized in processing distinct classes of social stimuli, and this result suggests that the anterior PCC is also involved in the ability to predict future intentional social interaction, based on an isolated agent's behavior. Expand
Understanding others' actions and goals by mirror and mentalizing systems: A meta-analysis
There seems, however, to be a transition from the mirror to the mentalizing system even when body-part motions are observed by perceivers who are consciously deliberating about the goals of others and their behavioral executions, such as when perceived body motions are contextually inconsistent, implausible or pretended. Expand
Perceiving Minds and Gods
  • Will M. Gervais
  • Psychology, Medicine
  • Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science
  • 2013
Most people believe in the existence of empirically unverifiable gods. Despite apparent heterogeneity, people’s conceptions of their gods center on predictable themes. Gods are overwhelminglyExpand