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CARMA Lab (Cohen)

Culture, Adaptation, Religion, Morality, Anthropomorphism

Lab Research Area:

The CARMA Lab seeks to understand religion and culture. Below are the types of questions the Carma Lab is interested in studying:

  • Do concepts of God as a caring person or as a punishing person influence the way we treat others?
  • Why do some people believe in God while others do not?
  • What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious?
  • How are our religious beliefs shaped by our culture and individual personalities?
  • What counts as a culture in psychology, and what doesn’t? Is religion a culture?
  • What constitutes personhood? Do people from different cultures and religions see personhood differently?
  • Why do religious Blacks and Latinos vote Democrat, but religious Whites and Asians vote Republican?
  • How do religious individuals gain the trust of others in their group – and outside of their group?

Join the Lab!

The CARMA Lab cheerfully accepts motivated students and volunteers who wish to gain valuable experience in experimental design, research implementation and writing, data analysis, and scholarly discussion. If you are interested in joining us, contact Dr. Kathryn Johnson or visit our Research Opportunity page.

Lab Director and Principal Investigator: Adam Cohen, PhD, Associate Professor

Dr. Cohen's research focuses on the cultural psychology of religion and has been funded by DARPA, AFOSR, NSF, and the Templeton Foundation. He is the author of about 80 articles and chapters, the editor of Culture Reexamined and serves as associate editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Dr. Cohen won the Margaret Gorman award winner from the American Psychological Association and the 2013 Godin Prize from the International Association for the Psychology of Religion. He is a fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. Curriculum Vitae.

Research Affiliates

Kathryn A. Johnson, PhD, Assistant Research Professor
Dr. Johnson's research interests include the social perception of non-human agents across different religious, non-religious, and cultural worldviews. Merging her training in religious studies and social psychology, she has investigated the personification of a wide range of non-living human, or non-human agents such as viruses and disease (e.g., cancer as an invading barbarian), living creatures, technological entities (e.g., robots), spiritual beings (e.g., God), fetuses, and human remains. Most recently, her research has focused on the antecedents and outcomes of representing God as benevolent, authoritarian, unknown, or as a cosmic force. Dr. Johnson is also interested in helping students with divergent religious and cultural worldviews to develop metacognitive strategies to improve their academic achievement. Curriculum Vitae.

Graduate Students

Stefanie Northover, Doctoral Student, Social Psychology, Department of Psychology
Stefanie received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology at California State University, Long Beach, and a Master of Science in psychology at McMaster University.  She is interested in the psychology of religion from evolutionary and cultural perspectives, especially signaling theories of religious behavior.

 

Joseph Barbour, Doctoral Student, Social Psychology, Department of Psychology
Joe’s research integrates theories of culture, self and social perceptions, and judgement and decision-making. He is particularly interested in how different forms of culture (e.g., national culture, institutional culture, etc.) combine in shaping one’s sense of self, and the role that this culturally-informed self plays in the process of decision-making. Much of his research has investigated the military organization and/or veteran population from a cultural perspective.

Matthew Scott, Doctoral Student, Social Psychology, Department of Psychology
Matthew’s research seeks to bridge humanism, evolutionary psychology, philosophy, and the psychology of religion by taking a scientific approach to understanding humanity’s loftier ideals. Current interests include the mechanisms that drive religious prosociality, the effects of anonymous altruism on reproductive fitness, and engineering an empirically sound future psychology that integrates humanity’s successful evolutionary history with its drive to transcend limits.

Jordan Moon, Doctoral Student, Social Psychology, Department of Psychology
Jordan is broadly interested in applying evolutionary and cultural approaches to religion and morality. Specifically, he is interested in exploring how and why religious phenomena vary across different contexts and what these variations mean. He is also interested in unbelief and how people make moral judgments about atheists and others based on religious information. 

 

Join the Lab!

The CARMA Lab cheerfully accepts motivated students and volunteers who wish to gain valuable experience in experimental design, research implementation and writing, data analysis, and scholarly discussion. If you are interested in joining us, contact Dr. Kathryn Johnson or visit our Research Opportunity page.

 

Select Publications

Below are a sample of recent publications from Dr. Cohen's research and lab. A more complete listing may be found in Dr. Cohen's curriculum vitae.

In press
Johnson, K. A., Cohen, A. B., & Okun, M. A. (In press).  God is watching over you vs. God is watching you: The influence of benevolent God representations on secular volunteerism among Christians. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.

Northover, S., Pedersen, W. C., Andrews, P. W., & Cohen, A. B.  (In press).  Artificial surveillance cues do not increase generosity: Two meta-analyses.  Evolution and Human Behavior.

2016
Silverman, G., Johnson, K. A., & Cohen, A. B. (2016).  To believe or not to believe, that is not the question: The complexity of Jewish beliefs about God.  Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 8, 119-130.

2015
Hall, D., Cohen, A. B., Meyer, K. K., Varley, A., & Brewer, G. A., Jr. (2015).  Costly signaling increases trust, even across religious affiliations. Psychological Science, 26, 1368-1376.

Johnson, K. A., Li, Y. J., & Cohen, A. B. (2015).  Fundamental motives and the varieties of religious experience. Religion, Brain, & Behavior, 5, 197-231. 

Cohen, A. B. (2015).  Religion’s profound influences on psychology: Morality, intergroup relations, self-construal, and enculturation.Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 77-82.

2012
White, A. E., Kenrick, D. T., Li, Y. J., Mortensen, C. R., Neuberg, S. L., & Cohen, A. B. (2012).  When nasty breeds nice: Threats of violence amplify agreeableness at national, individual, and situational levels. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 622-634.

Li, Y. J., Johnson, K. A., Cohen, A. B., Williams, M. J., Knowles, E. D., & Chen, Z. (2012).  Fundamental(ist) attribution error: Protestants are dispositionally focused. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 281-290.

2011 and older
Johnson, K. A., White, A. E., Boyd, B., & Cohen, A. B. (2011).  Matzo, meat, milk, and mana: A psychological analysis of religious cultural food practices. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42, 1421-1436.

 Cohen, A. B. (2009).  Many forms of culture. American Psychologist, 64, 194-204. 

Highlights & more!

April 22, 2016 – Lab-members Stefanie Northover, Ben Gelbart, Haya Sweidan, and Danya Kaakani flew to Los Angeles to recruit research participants at a mosque near the University of Southern California. 

 

 

April 25, 2016 -  Newest lab-member Graydon Joshua Lilly Cohen is born. Graydon is interested in the cultural psychology of giraffes.