Religious Cognition in China

“Homo Religiosus” and the Dragon

  • Ryan G. Hornbeck
  • Justin L. Barrett
  • Madeleine Kang

Part of the New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion book series (NASR, volume 2)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Justin L. Barrett, Ryan G. Hornbeck
    Pages 1-14
  3. Reexamining Chinese Religious Exceptionalism

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 15-15
    2. David A. Palmer
      Pages 17-34
    3. Li-Jun Ji, Emily Chan
      Pages 35-54
  4. Testing Naturalness Theory Hypotheses in China

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 77-77
    2. Tyler S. Greenway, Gregory S. Foley, Brianna C. Nystrom, Justin L. Barrett
      Pages 97-109
    3. Justin L. Barrett, Ryan G. Hornbeck, Brianna D. Bleeker, Skylar T. Barrett, Chenfeng Hao
      Pages 111-123
  5. Situating Naturalness Theory in Chinese and Global Contexts

  6. Back Matter
    Pages 215-221

About this book


Are human tendencies toward religious and spiritual thoughts, feelings, and actions outcomes of “natural” cognition? This volume revisits the “naturalness theory of religious cognition” through discussion of new qualitative and quantitative studies examining the psychological foundations of religious and spiritual expression in historical and contemporary China. Naturalness theory has been challenged on the grounds that little of its supporting developmental and experimental research has drawn on participants from predominantly secular cultural environments. Given China’s official secularity, its large proportion of atheists, and its alleged long history of dominant, nonreligious philosophies, can any broad claim for religion’s psychological “naturalness” be plausible? 

Addressing this empirical gap, the studies discussed in this volume support core naturalness theory predictions for human reasoning about supernatural agency, intelligent design, the efficacy of rituals, and vitalistic causality. And yet each study elucidates, expands upon, or even challenges outright the logical assumptions of the naturalness theory. Written for a non-specialist audience, this volume introduces the naturalness theory and frames the significance of these new findings for students and scholars of cultural psychology, the psychology of religion, the anthropology of religion, and Chinese Studies.


Afterlife Beliefs Chinese Religiosity Cognitive Science of Religion Consilience Counterintuitive Representations Naturalness Theory of Religious Cognition Religion and Wellbeing Ritual Form Hypothesis Teleological Reasoning Vitalistic Causality

Editors and affiliations

  • Ryan G. Hornbeck
    • 1
  • Justin L. Barrett
    • 2
  • Madeleine Kang
    • 3
  1. 1.Xiamen UniversityXiamen, Fujian ProvinceChina
  2. 2.Xiamen UniversityXiamen, Fujian ProvinceChina
  3. 3.Office for Science, Theology, & Religion Initiatives Fuller Theological SeminaryPasadenaUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG 2017
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-62952-0
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-62954-4
  • Series Print ISSN 2367-3494
  • Series Online ISSN 2367-3508
  • Buy this book on publisher's site