Members of this cluster are interested in the association between emotions such as disgust, fear, and anger and religious activities, predominantly in the representation of contamination and sensitivity to disgust in the context of (religious) beliefs and ritualised behaviour. The group also focuses on the role of agency in the contamination context, as the question “who” or “what” is a potential source of contamination has been demonstrated to be important in previous research.
Furthermore, individual differences and the relationship between disgust and fear in general is being addressed, as well as the role of these emotions in magical practices. By combining laboratory and field studies, we aim to find answers regarding how these psychological mechanisms provoke and are reflected through various religious representations and practices.
Vladimír Bahna is exploring the relationship between disgust and fear in religious rituals. He is also interested in cultural transmission, epidemiology of beliefs, cultural evolution and evolutionary theory. His PhD research focused on false memories and personal experience narratives about experiences with supernatural agents.
His current project is focused on religious practices and rituals, which involve objects and situations that are in other occasions considered as disgusting (dead bodies, blood, body products, body envelope violations etc.). The typical behavioral response for disgust is aversion and avoidance, but contrary to this, some rituals involve touching, kissing, eating or other forms of contact with these kinds of objects. The interesting question is then: what is the reason or motivation behind such practices, which seem to go against intuitions about contagion? In connection with this, his project focuses on the relationship between disgust and fear and their mutual interferences. Disgust elicitors can be and often are perceived as a threat and so is disgust highly related to fear, however the character of the relationship between these emotions is still mostly unknown.
Agency in a Petitionary Prayer
Aleš Chalupa is an Assistant Professor and current Chair at the Department for the Study of Religions at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. His current research interests are ancient religions and cognitive historiography. In this field he has recently published various articles, especially “What Might Cognitive Science Contribute to Our Understanding of the Roman Cult of Mithras” (in: Luther H. Martin – Jesper Sørensen [eds.], Past Minds: Studies in Cognitive Historiography, London: Equinox 2011, 107-124), “Why Did Greeks and Romans Pray Aloud? Anthropomorphism, Dumb Gods and Human Cognition“ (in: Donald Wiebe – Panayotis Pachis [eds.], Chasing Down Religion: In the Sights of History and the Cognitive Sciences, Thessaloniki: Barbounakis Publications 2010, 81-95) and “Pythiai and Inspired Divination in the Delphic Oracle: Can the Cognitive Sciences Provide Us With An Access to ‘Dead Minds’?“ (in Dead Minds, in press). As part of the LEVYNA project Aleš plans to combine recent experimental research in the cognitive science of religion with historical methods.
The role of the emotions in magical beliefs and practices
Danijela Jerotijević is a social anthropologist, currently member of LEVYNA and research assistant in the Institute of Social Anthropology at the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences in Bratislava. She has conducted long-term field research in central Serbia, focusing on social and cognitive aspects of transmission of representations of supernatural (magic) influence and magical practices. During the research, she developed an interest in the perception of illness and its explanations, fear of contamination and disease avoidance. In broader context, she is interested in evolutionary, cognitive and cross-cultural features of human thought and behavior. Her current project involved cross-cultural research, connecting anthropological and experimental methods in the field. Her teaching experience includes courses of cognitive anthropology, anthropology of religion, theory and methodology of field research etc.