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"What's HIDD'n in the HADD?"

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image of Journal of Cognition and Culture

The consensus in the cognitive science of religion is that some sort of hyperactive agency detection in the human mind is responsible for the origin and spread of beliefs in superhuman agents such as gods, spirits and ancestors among human populations. While it is expressed differently in different authors, they all agree that hyperactive agency detection is a basic function of human cognition. Most well known perhaps is the formulation of this by Justin Barrett as the Hyperactive Agency Detection Device or HADD. Problems, however, arise when we begin to consider the neural basis of this: It doesn't add up, or more precisely the HADD does not work that way. Like the magician pulling rabbits from the hat this explanation may be a "self"-conjuring trick, only for us the hat is a HADD and the rabbits are superhuman agents (no reference to were-rabbits intended). This paper will try to point to a more parsimonious explanation.

Affiliations: 1: University of Copenhagen, Institute of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark


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