The Evolution of Religion and Morality

In ten research papers and one target article with comments, this special issue of Religion, Brain & Behavior reports on the second phase of the Religion and Morality project that collected data on cooperative behavior and religious beliefs across 15 small-scale societies (N ~ 2,300 participants). Below, we highlight papers that include LEVYNA members as co-authors:

14 Apr 2022

1) Baimel et al. (with Eva Kundtová Klocová and Martin Lang) assess the existential security hypothesis across our 14 sites and show that while material insecurity is associated with a greater commitment to moralistic deities, it predicts less commitment to local deity traditions.

2) Vardy et al. (with Eva Kundtová Klocová and Martin Lang) examine the gender gap in religious commitment across 14 sites, finding that this gap extends beyond the Christian world in beliefs and practices related to moralizing gods, but men tend to show greater commitment to more local gods.

3) Purzycki et al. (with Eva Kundtová Klocová and Martin Lang) test the association between belief in supernatural agents and their inherent interest in human morality, finding that people are more likely than chance to indicate that local deities care about punishing theft, murder, and deceit.

4) In Mauritius, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Martin Lang, Peter Maňo, Radek Kundt, and Dimitris Xygalatas used free-list data to discriminate between spirit beliefs and found that sorcery beliefs and practices were associated with a greater probability of rule-breaking in an economic game.

5) Studying Candomblé and Christian beliefs in Brazil, Soler et al. (with Martin Lang) found that the Christian god was perceived as most moralizing, but belief had a limited impact on game behavior. Adherence to Ogum was associated with ingroup favoritism.

6) In a final piece reflecting on the whole project, Purzycki et al. (with Martin Lang) discuss some of the limitations and problems in design and execution of the project in an attempt to help future researchers conducting projects of a similar scale.

Ronald Fischer, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Tanya Luhrmann, Rebekah Richert, and Kim Sterelny kindly provided comments on the synthetic piece and the future of cognitive and evolutionary studies of religion.

Reply to these comments by Purzycki et al. (with Martin Lang) closes the double special issue.


Finally, all materials and maintained dataset from all field sites are publicly available for further investigation.

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