Start Date: 1st January, 2015.Room: 3B134
There is a large global diversity of religions in the world today, which is difficult to explain given that all religious belief is constructed upon the same evolved psychological mechanisms and is passed down from generation to generation. This raises questions about how and why religious beliefs transmitted linearly can diverge laterally into wide variations of religious belief systems, how and why they are then maintained and strengthened, and how this ultimately results in a large number of competing or, at the very least, parallel lineages of religions, societies and cultures. Thornhill & Fincher (2014) have put forward the Parasite-stress Theory of Sociality which may help to explain this behaviour. This theory proposes that in response to parasite-stress the behavioural immune system functions to promote assortative sociality through cognitions and behaviours such as philopatry, xenophobia, neophobia and ethnocentrism, which motivate the avoidance of novel parasites contained in out-groups, dislike of out-groups, increased social interactions and favouritism of in-group individuals, and avoidance of new ideas and values. However, much of the supporting evidence for their theory is correlational; therefore, through this theoretical framework I am investigating these putative evolved preferences and behaviours and their relationship with religiosity using experimental paradigms.
My research interests lie in the evolutionary origins of religiosity, the behavioural immune system, mating psychology – including mate preferences and choice, and mate retention behaviour. Other interests include parental investment and parent-offspring conflict - particularly the Cinderella Effect.