In 2012, I acquired the first tenure-track position in the cognitive science of religion (CSR) at a religious studies department in the United States. As I soon came to learn, students found the term “cognitive science of religion” vague and daunting. Reading materials on CSR-related topics tended to be targeted towards the specialist, and newcomers felt discouraged in their attempts to learn more.

This book aims to redress this balance by presenting a straightforward overview of CSR, demonstrating the fruitfulness of the approach through researcli topics and critiques. It is not a comprehensive account of CSR, but chapters are designed to provide the reader with an understanding of many pertinent ideas and research in the subdiscipline. Participation exercises, case studies, key questions, and further reading in the chapters will help students understand and engage with the topics.

I hope that this book stimulates the minds of readers from all backgrounds.


This book would not have been completed without the help of many individuals at my home institution, California State University Northridge, especially Rick Talbott and Elizabeth Say, who nurtured my professional development. Thanks also to the research assistants at California State University Northridge, especially Adrian Conway, Andrea Velasco, Iliana Mazin, Paul Parrett, Corinne Hummel, Moina Maaz, Sandra Quintana, and students in Huma 620 who proofread the manuscript.

I am also grateful to my family, friends and colleagues whose comments and critiques on aspects of the chapters improved this book. These include Adam Baimel, Ara Norenzayan, Andrew Shtulman, Benjamin Purzycki, Cindel White, David Cooper, Deborah Kelemen, Emma Cohen, Helen De Cruz, Justin В a nett, Jesse Bering, Jeppe Jensen, Jonathan Jong, Justin McBrayer, Jody Myers, John Shaver, Jesper Sorensen, Luther Martin, Larisa Heiphetz, Manvir Singh, Michael Bariev, Mitch Hodge, Nicholas Baumard, Oliver Curry, Paul Bloom, Pascal Boyer, Paul Harris, Robeit McCauley, Ryan McKay, Richard Sosis, Rick Talbot, Stewart Guthrie, Shaun Nicholas, Ted Slingerland, and Will Gervais.

I am especially grateful to colleagues who read multiple chapters, including Tom Lawson, Cristine Legare, and Harvey Whitehouse. Special thanks to Annin Geertz, who provided examples of research questions and methodologies, and to Dimitris Xygalatas and another anonymous reviewer for their thorough and helpful feedback on the entire book.

Time was spent on this book in the office and at home. I owe gratitude to my husband, Brian Kravette, for his support as I undertook this writing project. Likewise, thank you to my mother-in-law, Muriel Kravette, who provided me with the time to write.

Given the ambitious nature of providing a short introductory book, it is inevitable that important topics, theories, and researchers have not been given the full treatment they deserve or have been omitted altogether. Any omissions are mine alone. I have tried to provide references throughout the book, and I encourage readers to make use of these and further reading at the end of each chapter.