PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

To return to the Welcome Page, please click here.

For questions or support, email support@aarweb.org.

To return to the AAR website, click here.

Cognitive Science of Religion Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit 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 Unit 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: 

● Current Theories and Applications of the Cognitive Science of Religion -
This call is intentionally broad in scope. We invite scholars who are using current cognitive theories and/or applied research in the study of religion, religions, or religious-related phenomena to submit a proposal for a paper or panel session for inclusion in the 2019 AAR-CSR Unit’s sessions.

Cognitive Science and Mysticism (co-sponsored with the Mysticism Unit) -
The Cognitive Science of Religion (CSR) is a relatively new and burgeoning area of research in religious studies, while mysticism is perhaps one of its oldest subfields. What can these areas of research contribute to each other? CSR offers not only the possibility of novel approaches to a long-standing topic in the field, but has also produced theories of religion that may be germane to the study of mysticism. Alternatively, mysticism might suggest new avenues of research for scholars working in CSR. This session proposes a conversation between these domains, and welcomes proposals on areas of potential convergence and collaboration.


● CSR Approaches to Dreaming, Contact Kelly Bulkeley: bulkeleyk@gmail.com -
The rise of psychology of religion in the early 20th century was driven in part by Freud’s and Jung’s efforts to understand the nature of dreams. What would a new 21st century approach to dreams look like, using the resources of CSR? Specifically, to what extent do cognitive functions known to operate in religious contexts (e.g., memory, imagination, metaphor, teleological reasoning, social intelligence, agency detection, dual-systems cognition) also operate in dreaming? How does this shed new light on the various roles that dreams have played in the history of religions (e.g., theophany, healing, prophecy, moral guidance, visions of the afterlife)? Proposals are welcome that draw together detailed accounts of religiously significant dreaming with specific CSR concepts and theories.


Meta-Awareness in Contemplative Experience and the Cognitive Sciences, Contact Michael Sheehy: sheehy@virginia.edu (co-sponsored with Contemplative Studies Unit) - Meta-awareness – i.e. awareness of the contents of experiential consciousness – is a critical operation of many contemplative practice techniques, and is of increasing relevance to the ongoing dialogue between historical contemplative traditions and the cognitive sciences. Coupled with the study of attention and mind-wandering, inextricable with the study of mindfulness meditation, inquiry into the features of meta-awareness (and its siblings’ meta-cognition and meta-consciousness) raises important philosophical and empirical questions about the nature of cognition and conceptuality, to what extent awareness is contingent on concepts, the interior dynamics of contemplation, and the recognition of emotional experiences. This panel invites papers to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion about the features and operations of meta-awareness, and such implications for understanding related religious phenomena and the human mind.

Method: 
PAPERS
Process: 
Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
Leadership: 
ChairSteering Committee