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The Computations Underlying Religious Conversion: A Bayesian Decision Model

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X (2023). The Computations Underlying Religious Conversion: A Bayesian Decision Model. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 23(1-2), pp. 241-257. doi: 10.1163/15685373-12340161


Inspired by recent Bayesian interpretations about the psychology underlying religion, the paper introduces a theory proposing that religious conversion is shaped by three factors: (i) novel relevant information, experienced in perceptual or in social form (e.g., following interaction with missionaries); (ii) changes in the utility (e.g., expressed in an opportunity to raise in social rank) associated with accepting a new religious creed; and (iii) prior beliefs, favouring religious faiths that, although new, still remain consistent with entrenched cultural views (resulting in the phenomenon of syncretism). From the theory, a multifactorial picture of conversion emerges. Based on which factor is primarily engaged in each case, a classification of different types of conversion can be derived, with a remarkable fit with empirical literature. The theory offers a description of the processes underlying religious conversion and, highlighting the links among apparently incompatible previous views, it reconciles these views within a unifying framework.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article has been published in its final form in Journal of Cognition and Culture by Brill Academic Publisher and it can be found at:
Publisher Keywords: religious conversion; religious reasoning; Bayesian; mysticism; utility; syncretism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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