\u3ci\u3e\u3c/i\u3eIntuitions about God and Satan: The relationship of mentalizing and imagination with the experience of supernatural good and evil


Believers in relational deities conceptualize god(s) as agents with mental states. The ability to imagine other minds may be one of the cognitive foundations of religious belief. Research on this relationship is mixed, however. This study tests this relationship across experiences of supernatural good and evil rather than abstract beliefs. Previous research has demonstrated that mentalizing significantly predicted prayer type (Edman et al., 2015; 2017). However, a multi-site replication study failed to replicate the initial results, indicating that perhaps mode of prayer is more complexly related to mentalizing than initially hypothesized. Edman (2015; 2018) extended this research by including measures of belief in agentic evil and absorption. This research supported the relationship of mentalizing with supernatural experiences, but a curious result emerged: mentalizing desires (i.e., empathy) were positively related to experiences with supernatural agents, but mentalizing abilities (i.e., scores on the Mind in the Eyes test) were negatively related. Also, experiences with agentic evil were more highly related to mentalizing scores (both positive and negative) than were experiences with a good god. A previous study related empathy and mentalizing abilities were related to supernatural experience, but the correlations were not in the hypothesized direction (Edman, 2019). The current study attempts to parse out this relationship as well as the differences between beliefs in agentic supernatural evil versus agentic supernatural good

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