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Do Religious Practices and Foraging Behavior Have a Common Motivational Basis?

Authors
  • Anselme, Patrick1
  • 1 University of Bochum, Faculty of Psychology, Department of Biopsychology, Universitätsstraße 150, Bochum, 44801, Germany , Bochum (Germany)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Evolutionary Psychological Science
Publisher
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
Nov 12, 2018
Volume
5
Issue
2
Pages
231–242
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s40806-018-0182-4
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

The neuropsychological deciphering of religion suggests that the ability to believe in supernatural agents depends on cognitive mechanisms already present in our remote human ancestors. Current research has mainly focused on the cognitive accounts of religion, which do not satisfactorily explain religious motivation. Here, I defend the hypothesis that religious motivation recruits a motivational system that is not specifically human, and that underpins foraging activity under harsh environmental conditions. This motivational system, referred to as incentive hope, denotes motivational excitement for adversity avoidance (reward or relief) when difficulties (non-reward or punishment) are encountered. Incentive hope boosts foraging activity and therefore increases the probability of reward in a hostile environment, independent of any knowledge or awareness of what’s going on. It is shown how religious practices, which largely consist of adversity-avoidance strategies when adversity in life is high, could rely on incentive hope—revealed and enriched through self-awareness and introspection as hope in humans. Some original predictions to test this hypothesis are discussed.

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