Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary

Beliefs in afterlife as a by-product of persistence judgments

George E. Newman a1 , Sergey V. Blok a2 and Lance J. Rips a3
a1 Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520
a2 Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712
a3 Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208.

Article author query
newman ge   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
blok sv   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
rips lj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


We agree that supernatural beliefs are pervasive. However, we propose a more general account rooted in how people trace ordinary objects over time. Tracking identity involves attending to the causal history of an object, a process that may implicate hidden mechanisms. We discuss experiments in which participants exhibit the same “supernatural” beliefs when reasoning about the fates of cups and automobiles as those exhibited by Bering's participants when reasoning about spirits.