Understanding Religion from Cultural and Biological Perspectives

Stefanie B. Northover, Adam Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


We present a synthesized biological and cultural approach to religion. We discuss religion in terms of evolutionary byproducts, adaptation, cultural learning, and cultural evolution to help explain where religion originates. Specifically, we propose that religion first appeared because it is a robust byproduct of several adaptive modules, that these byproducts may in fact be adaptive or functional, and that cultural learning largely determines the details of religion and the degree of religiosity. In all we discuss religion as a product of the complex interplay of culture and biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Culture and Biology Interplay
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781119181361
ISBN (Print)9781119181323
StatePublished - Aug 22 2017


  • Agency detection
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Commitment signal
  • Costly signal
  • Cultural evolution
  • Cultural learning
  • Evolution
  • Religion
  • Supernatural punishment
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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