My research takes place broadly in the overlap between the cognitive and evolutionary science of memory, imagination, and belief.
I combine methods from cognitive neuroscience and social and experimental psychology to attempt to answer questions about the human experience.
In particular, I endeavour to examine and explain belief – religious belief, secular belief, and conspiracy belief – using dual-inheritance theories, which combine cognition and culture as predictive factors. In other words, this approach suggests that mental abilities and other cognitive antecedents and individual differences can explain belief only to a certain extent: cultural and social contexts are a pivotal other part of the research puzzle.
Another aspect of my research is to examine how we become absorbed in extraordinary experiences, such as awe or psychedelic experiences, religious or mystical experiences, experiencing or making art, and the feeling of flow or intuition, and what effects this has on us, in particular with regards to bonding, including our connectedness to others, nature, or the universe.
I am also engaged in research on the evolution of imagination and memory; for example how narrative, supported by imagination, allows humans to make sense of the world, and how our capacity for imagination allows us to construct social realities and live together in large societies. This research strand includes an interest in how we come to believe certain narratives – such as conspiracy theories -, and in what contexts we do so.
I have written numerous popular science articles for The Conversation, which have been hosted by BBC Future, the Daily Mail, Newsweek, Business Insider, World Economic Forum, PBS, and others. Get in touch to get a story or have a chat.
I have supervised four PhD students, four master students and one honour student to graduation, and am currently supervising two PhD students, but is also accepting new students. Get in touch if you have research ideas and want to have a chat – no matter how informal and regardless of funding situation in the first instance.