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Current Students

Mary Louise Boyle is a cognitive ethnomusicologist studying the relationship between music and emotions. At Queen’s she studied Ethnomusicology and Social Anthropology (BA), and then completed the Masters in Cognition and Culture. She also studied music performance, and received advanced certificates in Piano with Trinity College London. She is researching how people experience emotions in music cross-culturally, and will carry out psychological studies in Cairo and Belfast. She has been collaborating with the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s for this research, which involves recording the physiological responses of people while listening to music. She is also interested specifically in the music of Egypt, and will do further psychological studies and ethnographic research in Cairo to assess the relationship between music and emotions in this particular culture more closely. During her time in Egypt she has been a Visiting Scholar and Research Fellow at the American University in Cairo.


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. 


Anna Szabelska studied at Jagiellonian University in Kraków and holds master’s degrees in Sociology and Religious Studies. Her current research is focused on how devotion to sacred values may undergo a process of radicalization. Those values can be abstract (as a sense of fairness, for example) and devotion to them “may represent universal responses to long-term evolutionary strategies that go beyond short-term individual calculations of self-interest (...)” (Atran 2010; 345). That means readiness to delay instant as well as personal gratification for a gain that would benefit the individual (or a group that shares the same core values) in the unspecified future. Such group must also share the same symbolic realm and, more importantly, believe in its truthfulness. This often binds to the conviction of the existence of some kind of threat (“evil”) which, in turn, may lead to (sometimes extreme) violence. Anna’s intention is to examine if and (in case the answer to first question is positive) to what extent religion contributes to this process.


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.


MA Students

Jessica Cunningham obtained a B.A. in social anthropology from Queen's University Belfast, with one semester as an Erasmus student at the University of Copenhagen. Her research focused on sacred values and gun rights in the US. Now at the ICC, Jessica is interested in developing her undergraduate research by investigating the environmental and cognitive conditions that may trigger or inhibit such levels of attachment. 


Samuel Ward received a B.A. in Social Anthropology from Queen's University, Belfast. His primary interest is in mechanisms within religion which promote social cohesion and co-operation, and specifically upon how perceiving our fellows being in altered states (such as spirit possession) may encourage us to categorise them as reliable partners.


Contact Information

General Office Location: 
14 University Square, Room G01
Mon - Friday, 8.30 - 4.30pm
Tel:  +44 (0) 28 9097 3701
Fax: +44 (0) 28 9097 3700

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