About research

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You can call my research route unconventional. I am a researcher in the study of religion but my research combines theoretical perspectives from cognitive and developmental psychology, and quantitative and experimental methods that are commonly used in social and cognitive psychology.

I am interested in: 

supernatural inferences from the viewpoint of normal cognitive processing (for example, how do people form supernatural notions of their environment in the first place, why do certain cognitive characteristics recur in various supernatural or religious notions, etc.),

people's spontaneous everyday inferences about nature and, particularly, the agentive forms in them (for example, tendency to understand the Earth and living and non-living nature as intentional creating beings), and

interdisciplinary collaboration between the scholars in humanities and science.

This does not mean that I:

do research from either religious or atheistic perspective (i.e., I am focused on describing, understanding and explaining the forms that people's inferences and actions take, not examining whether their inferences are true).

My background is originally in humanities in the study of religion. I started studying religious reasoning because I had always been intrigued by the question: “Why do people form ideas of supernatural beings in the first place?” Because I was interested in this viewpoint of basic information processing, I very quickly found myself studying religious reasoning in the cognitive framework introduced to the University of Helsinki, Finland, by Dr. Ilkka Pyysiäinen.

Being interested in the origin of things overall, I guess now afterwards it seems only fitting that I started assessing people’s reasoning about the origin of nature and creation beliefs in particular. I wanted to better understand the role that automatic cognitive tendencies play in acceptance (or rejection) of both religious and scientific reasoning about nature.

In the beginning of my PhD studies in Helsinki I realized that in order to test my ideas empirically I needed to learn experimental methodology. First, I took part in a methodological workshop organized by “Cognition, Religion and Theology” project in Oxford University, UK. Subsequently, I became a visiting PhD student and postdoctoral researcher at Dr. Deborah Kelemen’s Child Cognition Lab at Boston University, USA. During my years in Boston I learned to conduct interdisciplinary research in practice. 


Education

 

2013      

PhD in Study of Religion at Department of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland (laudatur)

2007    

MA* in Study of Religion, Department of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland (eximia cum laude); minors in Cognitive Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Gender Studies 

* This was a six-year program that included BA automatically.

 

Research experience and training

 

2017

Visiting Researcher at Boston University, USA

2015 - 2016

Research Fellow at Newman University, UK

2014 – 2015

Research Associate at Coventry University, UK

2010 – 2014

Visiting PhD student and postdoctoral researcher at Child Cognition Lab at Department of Psychology in Boston University, USA

2009

Summer workshop in experimental methodology (Cognition, Religion and Theology project), Oxford University, UK