Religion and magical thinking

Religion and magical thinking may provide the ultimate means to cope with uncertainty (see also coping with perceived threats). In our research we focus on the precursors of religious beliefs (e.g., agency-detection biases; motivational value of religious beliefs and experiences) and the social and emotional consequences of religion (e.g., prosocial behavior, agency, self-esteem). In addition, starting from an evolutionary perspective (e.g., error management theory) we investigate the development of magical thinking and the illusion of control (i.e., the erroneous belief that uncontrollable events can be controlled).

Key Publications:

Rutjens, B. T., van der Pligt, J., & van Harreveld, F. (2010). Deus or Darwin: Randomness and belief in theories about the origin of life. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 1078-1080.

Wojtkowiak, J., & Rutjens, B. T. (2011). The postself and terror management theory: Reflecting on after death identity buffers existential threat. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 21, 137-144.

van Elk, M., Rutjens, B. T., & van der Pligt, J. The development of the illusion of control and sense of agency in 7- to -12-year old children and adults. Cognition, in press.

van Elk, M. (2013). Paranormal believers are more prone to illusory agency detection than skeptics. Consciousness & Cognition 22(3), 1041-1046.

van Elk, M., Rutjens, B., van Harreveld, F., & van der Pligt, J. Priming of supernatural agent concepts and agency detection. Religion, Brain and Behavior, in press.

Rutjens, B. T., van Harreveld, F., van der Pligt, J., van Elk, M., & Pyszczynski, T. A march to a better world? Religiosity and the existential function of belief in social-moral progress. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, in press.