A Cognitive Approach to Understanding Religious Violence Open Access

Movens, Scott (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/08612p080?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract
A Cognitive Approach to Understanding Religious Violence
By Scott Movens
This paper argues that the unitary explanations of religious violence that dominate current scholarship are inadequate due to the multiplicity of possible motivations. Instead, this paper argues that scholars should examine the cognitive biases that increase the likelihood of religious violence. This approach provides a more universal and accurate tool for making coherent explanations of religious violence, as well as being a more effective starting point for analyzing each individual's choice to commit religious violence.
The paper starts by analyzing religion's role in inter- and intra-group relationships through the lens of commitment factors and essentialism. Through this approach, religion makes hostility to outsiders much more likely because of the strength of commitments and levels of trust between members of a particular religious community. Augmented by the human mind's essentialist perspective, this paper argues that religion can be a particularly catalyzing force for both intra- and inter-group violence to preserve and strengthen bonds of commitments and cooperation.
Further, the paper expands upon religion's role in group relations but from an individualistic perspective. The section argues that the idea of God as an agent that has full access to strategic information about people has significant implications for religious violence. Seeing God as an agent with complete access to such information mediates social interactions, gives higher authority to religious orders, and heightens people's emotional state when dealing with religion.
The last section takes a biological approach to the issue of religious violence in analyzing what cognitive factors directly affect the human propensity to commit religious violence. Humans typically overdetect agents when explaining phenomena, triggering the flight-or-fight mentality. Because agent overdetection is a common aspect of how people analyze events as religious, it may lead to heightened levels of hostility, increasing the likelihood of violence

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I. Introduction............................................................................1

II. Methods................................................................................2

III. Literature Review..................................................................6

IV. The Evolutionary Problem of Religion......................................29

V. Counter-Intuitive Properties....................................................53

VI. Hyperactive Agent Detection Device.......................................68

VII. Conclusion.........................................................................75

VIII. Bibliography......................................................................78

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