Mysticism and Miracles

When religious expectations dominate experience

About

Mysticism and Miracles is a project that investigates the concrete situations in which mystical experiences and miracles are reported. The ambition is to systematically identify, isolate, and analyze components in religious interactions that increase the probability of believers reporting such experiences. The project imports a general model of perception from the cognitive neurosciences that describes how the brain combines expectations and sensory input to form perceptions. Like hypnosis and placebo interactions, religious practices appear to include a range of techniques and contextual components that allow individual expectations, rather than actual sensory input, to dominate the perception of a situation. Mapping these components is central to the project. Observations from field studies among various religious groups in Denmark will lay the ground for a series of controlled experiments that seek to explain how situations contribute to the occurrence of these fascinating phenomena.

The project is funded by The Danish Council for Independent Research | Humanities (FKK)

Project Publications

  • Schjoedt, U, Nielbo, K. L., Andersen, Sørensen, J. (2013). Optimal contexts for praying: Effects of sensory deprivation and material symbols. (In review).
  • Schjoedt, U., Sørensen, J., Nielbo, K. L., Xygalatas, D., Mitkidis, P., & Bulbulia, J. (2013). Cognitive resource depletion in religious interactions. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 3(1), 39-55.
  • Schjoedt, U., Sørensen, J., Nielbo, K. L., Xygalatas, D., Mitkidis, P., & Bulbulia, J. (2013). The resource model and the principle of predictive coding: a framework for analyzing proximate effects of ritual. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 3(1), 79-86.
  • Bulbulia, J & Schjødt, U. (2012). The Neural Basis of Religion. In Frank Krueger & Jordan Grafman (eds.), The Neural Basis of Human Belief Systems.  Psychology Press.
  • Schjoedt, U., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Geertz, A. W., Lund, T. E., & Roepstorff, A. (2011). The power of charisma—perceived charisma inhibits the frontal executive network of believers in intercessory prayer. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(1), 119-127.
  • Schjoedt, U., & Bulbulia, J. (2011). The need to believe in conflicting propositions. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 1(3), 236-239.
  • Schjoedt, U., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Geertz, A. W., & Roepstorff, A. (2009). Highly religious participants recruit areas of social cognition in personal prayer. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 4(2), 199-207.
  • Schjødt, U., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Geertz, A. W., & Roepstorff, A. (2008). Rewarding prayers. Neuroscience letters, 443(3), 165-168.

Project coordinator

Uffe Schjødt

Associate professor