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Religion Is Kid’s Stuff: Minimally Counterintuitive Concepts Are Better Remembered by Young People

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

Abstract

When it comes to explaining the recurrence of cultural forms, group-level naturalness is more important than individual-level naturalness. Building upon Pascal Boyer’s account for the group-level naturalness of religious ideas, Justin Gregory and colleagues provide, in a series of articles, new evidence that slightly or “minimally” counterintuitive concepts are better remembered than fully intuitive ones, but only in young people. Further, adolescents and young adults are more likely to generate ideas that feature minimally counterintuitive concepts. These developmental effects held for both Chinese and British samples. The relative ease of generating and remembering counterintuitive concepts in youth may contribute to the capacity of certain religious ideas, particularly ideas about intentional agents with a counterintuitive tweak or two that makes them inferentially rich, to take hold in a group and become cultural ideas (i.e., ideas that are mentally represented in similar form by the majority of individuals in a group).

Keywords

  • Minimally counterintuitive representations
  • Cultural transmission
  • Cognitive optimum theory
  • Chinese participants

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Correspondence to Justin L. Barrett .

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Barrett, J.L. (2017). Religion Is Kid’s Stuff: Minimally Counterintuitive Concepts Are Better Remembered by Young People. In: Hornbeck, R., Barrett, J., Kang, M. (eds) Religious Cognition in China. New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion , vol 2. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-62954-4_8

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