Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

The evolutionary social psychology of religious beliefs

Lee A. Kirkpatrick a1
a1 Department of Psychology, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795


Atran & Norenzayan (A&N) are correct that religion is an evolutionary by-product, not an adaptation, but they do not go far enough. Once supernatural beliefs are enabled by processes they describe, numerous social-cognitive mechanisms related to attachment, social exchange, coalitional psychology, status and dominance, and kinship are crucial for explaining the specific forms religion takes and individual and cultural differences therein.