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Counter-Intuitive Religious Representations from the Perspective of Early Intersubjective Development and Complex Representational Constellations. A Methodological Reflection

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My main concern in this article is the relevance of theoretically integrative approaches. I argue that such approaches are methodologically better equipped for the psychology of religion because they correspond with the inherent complexity of religiosity. In order to concretize this matter I critically evaluate the hypothesis proposed by some cognitive researchers that the attraction of counter-intuitive representations provides an explanation of religion. Irrelevant aspects are left out in this hypothesis. In contrast to this I rely on cognitive-analytic perspectives that are based on a broader theoretical foundation. This generates a more complete picture that also connects to the tradition built on Otto's (1923) idea of the wholly other. From this perspective it is more plausible to assume that religious representations are trajectories of the early evolving tripartite sense of self, other and world and, further, formed by individual mentalization capacity. This can be conceptualized in terms of interplay between specific complex representational constellations rooted in different phases of early development. Integrative approaches that depict mental activity as a dynamic and multifaceted phenomenon embedded in intersubjectivity are relevant for the psychology of religion.

Affiliations: 1: Åbo Akademi University, Åbo, Finland;, Email:


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