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A Cognitive Typology of Religious Actions

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The rapid but disproportionate growth of the cognitive science of religion in some areas, coupled with the desire to meaningfully connect with more traditional, function-inspired classifications, has left the field with an incomplete and sometimes inconsistent typology of religious and related actions. We address this shortcoming by proposing a systematic typology of counterintuitive actions based on their cognitive representational structures. This typology may serve as the framework of a research program that seeks to establish (1) psychologically, whether each class of events receives different cognitive treatment within a given context and similar representation across contexts; and (2) anthropologically, whether the different classes are characterized by different performance frequencies, social functions, and kinds of interpretations, making them useful explanatory and predictive distinctions.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Anthropology and Mind, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6QS, UK; 2: Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI 48109–1043, USA

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