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Dr Jonathan Lanman

DPhil, MSc  (Oxford), MA (Missouri)

Lecturer in Cognition and Culture and Anthropology

Assistant Director, ICC 

Phone: +44 (0) 28 9097 1173   


Office:  ICC, 2-4 Fitzwilliam Street

Dr. Lanman joined the School in 2012, after working as a Departmental Lecturer (2009-2011) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2011-2012) in Anthropology at the University of Oxford and a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology at The University of British Columbia.


Research Interests:

Dr. Lanman's research addresses two main areas in the scientific study of religion.  Across both areas, he aims to integrate theories and methodologies from the social, cognitive, and evolutionary sciences with ethnographic and historical research.  While his geographic area of interest is international, his work has focused on the North Atlantic world with a comparative focus on the contemporary United States.


1) Atheism & Secularization

His work on atheism and secularization aims to provide an account of why some individuals become theists and others become non-theists, why some nations have much higher proportions of non-theists than others, and why some non-theists engage in anti-religious social action.  This research engages literature on cognitive biases, existential security, hypocrisy, threat detection, coalitionary psychology, and moral psychology and focuses on the United States, United Kingdom, and Scandinavia. 

In collaboration with Lois Lee (UCL) and Stephen Bullivant (St. Mary's), he is currently (2015-2016) continuing this research as a PI on a John Templeton Funded grant entitled "The Scientific Study of Nonreligious Belief."


2) Religious Identity, Ritual, and Self-Sacrifice

Dr. Lanman's  collaborative work on religious identity, ritual, and self-sacrifice aims to provide an account of the nature and catalysts of religious cohesion and the relative contributions of belief, ritual, values, and identity in explaining individual willingness to die for a religious group.  This research engages literature on belief, ritual, memory, identity fusion, psychological kinship, sacred values, and martyrdom and is international with a focus on the United States and Europe. 

In collaboration with Harvey Whitehouse (Oxford), William Swann (Texas), Michael Buhrmester (Oxford/Texas), and others, he is continuing this research (2011-2016) as part of two large research grants:  A £3.2m project funded by the ESRC entitled Ritual, Community, and Conflict and a £1m project funded by the JTF entitled Religion's Impact on Human Life.  


For further detail of Dr. Lanman's research, see his interview in the New Science of Religion series.


Selected Articles:

Lanman J., Buhrmester, M. (in press). “Religious Actions Speak Louder Than Words:  Exposure to CREDs Predicts Theism.”  Religion, Brain, and Behavior.

 Wilson, D.S., Hartberg, Y., MacDonald, I., Lanman, J.A., Whitehouse, H.  (in press). “The Nature of Religious Diversity: A Cultural Ecosystem Approach.  Religion, Brain, and Behavior. 

Buhrmester, M., Fraser, W., Lanman, J., Whitehouse, H., Swann. B.  (2015).  “When Terror Hits Home:  Fused Bostonians Saw Bombing Victims as Family and Rushed to Their Aid.”  Self and Identity, 14 (3): 253-270. 

Whitehouse, H. and Lanman, J. (2014).  "The Ties that Bind Us:  Ritual, Fusion, and Identification."  Current Anthropology, 55 (6): 674-695. 

Lanman, J. (2012). “The Importance of Religious Displays for Belief Acquisition and Secularization.” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 27: 49-65.

Lanman, J. (2008). “In Defense of ‘Belief’: A Cognitive Response to Behaviorism, Eliminativism, and Social Constructivism.” Issues in Ethnology & Anthropology, 3: 49-62.

Barrett, J.L., Lanman, J.A. (2008). “The Science of Religious Beliefs.” Religion, 38: 109-124.

Cohen, E., Lanman, J.A., McCauley, R.N., Whitehouse, H. (2008). “Common Criticisms of the Cognitive Science of Religion – Answered.” CSSR Bulletin 37: 112-115.


Selected Book Chapters: 

 Lanman, J. (in press).  “The Evolutionary Anthropology of Religion:  Surveying the Field.”  Mental Religion: The Brain, Cognition, and Culture. Niki Clements (Ed).  Macmillan.

Lanman, J. (in press).  "An Order of Mutual Benefit: Charles Taylor and the Cognitive Science of Religion." Working with A Secular Age: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Charles Taylor's Master Narrative.  Zemmin, F.,  Jager, C., and Vanheeswijk, G. (Eds.) De Gruyter.

Lanman, J. (2013).  "Atheism and Cognitive Science."  The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

Lanman, J. (2008). “Are We All Believers?” The Evolution of Religion: Studies, Theories, and Critiques. Bulbulia, J., Sosis, R., Genet, R., Harris, E., Wyman, K.,& Genet, C. (Eds.). Santa Margarita, CA: Collins Foundation Press.

Lanman, J. (2007). “How ‘Natives’ Don’t Think: The Apotheosis of Overinterpretation.” Religion, Social Anthropology, and Cognitive Science. eds. Whitehouse, H. and Laidlaw, J. (Eds.). Durham: Carolina Academic Press.


Entry on PURE research portal



Power, Ritual, and Symbol, ANT1004

Cognition and Culture, ANT2034/ANT3147

Religion and Ritual, ANT3006

Evolution and Human Behavior, ANT7019

Cognitive Science of Religion, ANT7021



Other Online Media

  • British Humanist Association & Centre for Inquiry:  "Atheism: The View from Cognitive Science." Lecture given at Conway Hall in 2014.