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AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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CO-SPONSORED SESSION: Cognitive Science of Religion Unit and the Psychology, Culture, and Religion Unit

Call for Papers: 

What is Innateness? Evolution and Development in the Cognitive Science and Psychology of Religion

What does it mean for a cognitive process or capability to be innate? Does this category only refer to fully realized functions at birth? in the first week? in the first month? How should theories about innateness address connections between innate and acquired capacities, and what are the implications for our understanding of the psychology and cognitive science of religion? Recent evidence from developmental cognitive psychology has upended our thinking about innateness. For example, the first longitudinal study of neonatal imitation, published in 2016, showed no evidence to support previous claims by Meltzoff and others. Yet human infants learn to imitate and both nonhuman primates and humans learn to acquire certain, socially relevant capabilities early in life. Are there ways to conceptualize innateness that help us make sense of what may be an innate readiness to acquire such capabilities? For example, does the innateness theory of Gary Marcus sufficiently address both the evolutionary and developmental aspects of acquiring language, morality, religious behaviors and affiliations, etc.? We are especially interested in integrative theoretical or empirical papers that address Marcus' theory and/or new approaches that draw on the evolutionary and developmental interaction literature in psychology and cognitive science (i.e., EvoDevo theories), with a clear connection to how these approaches help or hinder understanding of the origin, transmission, and practice of religion.

Contact: Michael Spezio, Scripps College,

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