Nicholas Brown obtained his BA in Anthropology from the University of South Florida, his MA in Cognition and Culture from the ICC, and an Msc in Neuroscience by Research at the University of Edinburgh. His research goals largely pertain to the utilization of neuro-imaging research methods on social and cultural phenomena at the level of the brain. Of particular interest are the neural networks at play in religious phenomena, specifically motivated reasoning, coalitional psychology, belief and behavior, affect, and violence. Previous research has included work on ALS, functional neuro-imaging analysis of Ganser Syndrome, and stereological analyzation of in-vivo and in-vitro human brains using 3T and 7T MRI scanners.
Adam W. Gilreath holds an MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology from the University of Oxford and obtained his BSc in in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology from Troy University (U.S.). Adam’s doctoral research will investigate the role of perceived threat in intergroup conflicts. More specifically, his research will examine the process by which a perceived threat leads to violent intergroup confrontations, as well as explore whether certain antecedent variables contribute to the sustainability and saliency of perceived threat in intergroup conflicts. Adam also maintains research interests in sacred values, terrorism, and identity fusion.
Mathilde Hernu obtained a BA in Psychology and a MA in Social Psychology at Paris 8 University, France. She worked as a research assistant and coordinator for large human trials at Oxford University and Coventry University, UK. Presently, she is pursuing the joint PhD in the Cognitive Science of Religion sponsored by Queen´s University, Belfast and Aarhus University. Her topic of research is the coexistence of natural and supernatural explanations. The aim is to examine the extent to which these different explanations can be invoked by the same individual to explain events or states located in space and time such as misfortunes, life threatening illnesses and natural catastrophes. She hypothesises that the motivations and mechanisms underpinning this phenomenon relate to a psychological need for control and to an understanding of causal links in terms of morality.
Gary Lavery studied Psychology (BSc) at Queen’s University Belfast, and completed his masters degree (MA) in Cognitive Science through Queen’s philosophy department. His previous research was a developmental investigation into whether 3- and 4-year old children possess something akin to a Theory of Mind (ToM). He is currently investigating the ontogeny of deontic competence at the Institute of Cognition & Culture (ICC) with a particular emphasis on the acquisition and development of deontic concepts and the conditions under which deontic rules are in force. His broad research interests include: reasoning with deontic conditionals (Psychology of Reasoning), the mind-brain identity theory (Philosophy of Cognitive Science), evolved psychological adaptations and cognitive modularity (Evolutionary Psychology), and various aspects of developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Conall Smyth obtained his BSc in Psychology at Queens University Belfast, and completed his Masters degree in Applied Psychology at the Magee campus of The University of Ulster. His previous research has investigated the stigma of mental health, and more precisely the relationship between mental health literacy and stigmatized attitudes. He is currently researching The Northern Ireland conflict, focusing on Social Identity, Sacred Values and Religiosity. Many attempts at resolving political conflicts or countering political violence often assume that adversaries make rational choices. Today, however, we are witnessing devoted actors who are willing to sacrifice their lives for their sacred values, with little thought given to likely costs or losses. Conall is interested in understanding these Sacred Values more, in an attempt to understand why people are willing to go to extremes to protect their Sacred Values. Understanding people’s commitment to Sacred Values may allow better informed interventions at peace negotiation. Conall will be investigating this, as well as the influence of Social Identity and Religiosity.
Anna Szabelska studied at Jagiellonian University in Kraków and holds master’s degrees in Sociology and Religious Studies. In her current research she is probing different components of radicalization and their eventual presence in the reasoning of people who are most prone to make sacrifices in defence of a cause.
Jackson Trager obtained a BA in Psychology and Religious Studies with a minor in Jewish Studies from California State University, Northridge. Jackson served as a research assistant in CSUN's Cognitive Science of Religion Lab, studying end of life narratives and religious beliefs. Jackson has also worked as a research assistant at Tel-Aviv University, focusing on morality in the Hostile World Scenario. He is an MA student at the ICC and his current research focuses on fluctuating moral foundations and intergroup conflict.
Hugh Turpin studied philosophy (BA) at Trinity College Dublin and holds master’s degrees in social anthropology (MSc, Oxford) and cognitive science (MA, UCD). He is currently undertaking the joint QUB/Aarhus University PhD in the Cognitive Science of Religion. Hugh’s current research examines the effects on religious believers of exposure to Credibility Undermining Displays (CRUDs) on the part of their religious models – namely, the effects of witnessing behaviours which could be taken to suggest that the model in question does not in fact hold the beliefs they claim to hold. The research will examine the putative connection between religious hypocrisy and apostasy by analysing how varying rates of past exposure to CRUDs and CREDs (Credibility Enhancing Displays – Henrich, 2009) influence the likelihood that an individual will abandon previously held theistic beliefs and religious commitments. It will be conducted through a mixture of quantitative surveys, lab-based experiments, and ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the Republic of Ireland. Apart from the Cognitive Science of Religion proper, Hugh’s other research interests include non-religious socio-cultural phenomena which share in the psychological technologies sometimes said to be exploited by religion, and the anthropology of Japanese society.
Samuel Ward holds degrees in both Social Anthropology (B.A.) and Cognition and Culture (M.A.), both from Queen’s University Belfast. Samuel’s doctoral project addresses perceptions of personal essence – that substance which is taken to be internal, sharply-defined and determining – and how said essence may be seen to change. He hypothesises that this may occur as a result of prolonged contact between a subject and a medium of a “contagious” essence – especially if the aforementioned medium is physically internalised. He would apply this analysis to the cognition of ritual practices of internalising an “essence-holder”, such as spirit mediumship, sympathetic magic, and the Eucharistic rite. He also maintains an interest in the anthropology of religion and ritual, the anthropology of Scotland, South-East Asia and Latin America, embodied cognition, and psychological theories of self, group bonding and identity fusion.