Sensing the presence of gods and spirits across cultures and faiths.
ABSTRACT: Hearing the voice of God, feeling the presence of the dead, being possessed by a demonic spirit-such events are among the most remarkable human sensory experiences. They change lives and in turn shape history. Why do some people report experiencing such events while others do not? We argue that experiences of spiritual presence are facilitated by cultural models that represent the mind as "porous," or permeable to the world, and by an immersive orientation toward inner life that allows a person to become "absorbed" in experiences. In four studies with over 2,000 participants from many religious traditions in the United States, Ghana, Thailand, China, and Vanuatu, porosity and absorption played distinct roles in determining which people, in which cultural settings, were most likely to report vivid sensory experiences of what they took to be gods and spirits.
Project description:Scientific research yields inconsistent and contradictory evidence relating religion to moral judgments and outcomes, yet most people on earth nonetheless view belief in God (or gods) as central to morality, and many view atheists with suspicion and scorn. To evaluate intuitions regarding a causal link between religion and morality, this paper tested intuitive moral judgments of atheists and other groups. Across five experiments (N?=?1,152), American participants intuitively judged a wide variety of immoral acts (e.g., serial murder, consensual incest, necrobestiality, cannibalism) as representative of atheists, but not of eleven other religious, ethnic, and cultural groups. Even atheist participants judged immoral acts as more representative of atheists than of other groups. These findings demonstrate a prevalent intuition that belief in God serves a necessary function in inhibiting immoral conduct, and may help explain persistent negative perceptions of atheists.
Project description:Recent studies of the evolution of religion have revealed the cognitive underpinnings of belief in supernatural agents, the role of ritual in promoting cooperation, and the contribution of morally punishing high gods to the growth and stabilization of human society. The universality of religion across human society points to a deep evolutionary past. However, specific traits of nascent religiosity, and the sequence in which they emerged, have remained unknown. Here we reconstruct the evolution of religious beliefs and behaviors in early modern humans using a global sample of hunter-gatherers and seven traits describing hunter-gatherer religiosity: animism, belief in an afterlife, shamanism, ancestor worship, high gods, and worship of ancestors or high gods who are active in human affairs. We reconstruct ancestral character states using a time-calibrated supertree based on published phylogenetic trees and linguistic classification and then test for correlated evolution between the characters and for the direction of cultural change. Results indicate that the oldest trait of religion, present in the most recent common ancestor of present-day hunter-gatherers, was animism, in agreement with long-standing beliefs about the fundamental role of this trait. Belief in an afterlife emerged, followed by shamanism and ancestor worship. Ancestor spirits or high gods who are active in human affairs were absent in early humans, suggesting a deep history for the egalitarian nature of hunter-gatherer societies. There is a significant positive relationship between most characters investigated, but the trait "high gods" stands apart, suggesting that belief in a single creator deity can emerge in a society regardless of other aspects of its religion.
Project description:Previous research suggests that how people conceive of minds depends on the culture in which they live, both in determining how they interact with other human minds and how they infer the unseen minds of gods. We use exploratory factor analysis to compare how people from different societies with distinct models of human minds and different religious traditions perceive the minds of humans and gods. In two North American samples (American adults, N = 186; Canadian students, N = 202), we replicated a previously found two-factor agency/experience structure for both human and divine minds, but in Fijian samples (Indigenous iTaukei Fijians, N = 77; Fijians of Indian descent, N = 214; total N = 679) we found a three-factor structure, with the additional containing items related to social relationships. Further, Fijians' responses revealed a different three-factor structure for human minds and gods' minds. We used these factors as dimensions in the conception of minds to predict (a) expectations about human and divine tendencies towards punishment and reward; and (b) conception of gods as more embodied (an extension of experience) or more able to know people's thoughts (an extension of agency). We found variation in how these factors predict conceptions of agents across groups, indicating further theory is needed to explain how culturally generated concepts of mind lead to other sorts of social inferences. We conclude that mind perception is shaped by culturally defined social expectations and recommend further work in different cultural contexts to examine the interplay between culture and social cognition.
Project description:In China, white spirit is not only an alcoholic drink but also a cultural symbol. A novel and accurate method for simultaneously determining nine sweeteners (most authorized for use in China) in white spirits by ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) with a photo-diode array detector (PDA) and charged aerosol detector (CAD) was developed. The sweeteners were acesulfame, alitame, aspartame, dulcin, neotame, neohesperidine dihydrochalcone, saccharin, sodium cyclamate, and sucralose. The sweeteners were separated within 16 min using a BEH C18 column and linear gradient-elution program. The optimized method allowed low concentrations (micrograms per gram) of sweeteners to be simultaneously detected. The CAD gave good linearities (correlation coefficients > 0.9936) for all analytes at concentrations of 0.5 to 50.0 μg/g. The limits of detection were 0.16 to 0.77 μg/g. Acesulfame, dulcin, neohesperidine dihydrochalcone, and saccharin were determined using the PDA detector, which gave correlation coefficients > 0.9994 and limits of detection of 0.16 to 0.22 μg/g. The recoveries were 95.1% to 104.9% and the relative standard deviations were 1.6% to 3.8%. The UHPLC-PDA-CAD method is more convenient and cheaper than LC-MS/MS methods. The method was successfully used in a major project called "Special Action against Counterfeit and Shoddy white spirits" and to monitor risks posed by white spirits in China.
Project description:Background:Glucose oxidase (GOD), an aerobic dehydrogenase, has been used as an antibiotic substitute in feed. A study was conducted to evaluate the differential effects of 2 different GODs fermented by Aspergillus niger or Penicillium amagasakiense on caecal microbiota and to further illuminate the potential roles of changes in the gut microbiota in regulating the growth performance and meat quality of broiler chickens. Results:A total of 420 one-day-old healthy Arbor Acres broilers were randomly assigned to 4 treatments: the control group, the antibiotic growth promoter (AGP) supplementation group, and the GOD-A and GOD-P (GODs produced by A. niger and P. amagasakiense, respectively) groups. As a result, supplementation with GOD produced by P. amagasakiense could significantly improve the average daily weight gain and average daily feed intake of broilers before 21?days of age by significantly increasing the enzymatic activities of jejunal amylase and those of ileal amylase, chymotrypsin, and lipase in 21-day-old broilers and could increase the enzymatic activities of duodenal amylase, jejunal amylase and lipase, and ileal chymotrypsin and lipase in 42-day-old broilers. Meanwhile, compared with AGP treatment, supplementation with GOD produced by P. amagasakiense significantly decreased the L value of 21-day-old broilers and the ?pH and L* value of 42-day-old broilers, while supplementation with GOD produced by A. niger significantly increased the pH24?h value of 21-day-old and 42-day-old broilers by reducing plasma malondialdehyde content. By using 16S rRNA sequencing, we found that the beneficial bacteria and microbiota in broilers were not disturbed but were improved by GOD supplementation compared with ADP treatment, including the genera Eubacterium and Christensenella and the species uncultured_Eubacterium_sp, Clostridium_asparagiforme, and uncultured_Christensenella_sp, which were positively related to the improved intestinal digestive enzymatic activities, growth performance, and meat quality of broilers. Conclusion:The altered gut microbiota induced by supplementation with glucose oxidase produced by P. amagasakiense mediate better regulatory effects on the meat quality and growth performance of broilers than that induced by supplementation with glucose oxidase produced by A. niger.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To describe, evaluate, and suggest interpretations for an observed aggregate level relation between trends in mortality from cirrhosis and per capita consumption of distilled spirits in the United States. DESIGN:Trend analysis using data on US cirrhosis mortality and per capita alcohol consumption. RESULTS:There is a consistent long term trend relation between mortality from cirrhosis and per capita consumption of distilled spirits in the United States from 1949 to 1994. Two instances of comparatively sharp drops in the consumption of spirits earlier in the 1940s generated mixed results in predicting changes in cirrhosis mortality. CONCLUSIONS:An aggregate level relation between trends in long term cirrhosis mortality and the consumption of spirits falls considerably short of establishing a direct causal link between the two for individuals. Moreover, two sharp drops in the consumption of spirits generated only mixed results with respect to the short term trend in cirrhosis. Nevertheless, the observed relation between the consumption of spirits and cirrhosis mortality merits further investigation.
Project description:In 1994, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) included "culture-bound syndromes" in its classification of psychiatric disorders and associated them with disease processes that manifest in behavioural or thought disorders that develop within a given cultural context. This study examines the definitions, explanatory models, signs and symptoms, and healthcare-seeking behaviours common to Fang culture-bound syndromes (i.e., kong, eluma, witchcraft, mibili, mikug, and nsamadalu). The Fang ethnic group is the majority ethnic group in Equatorial Guinea. From September 2012 to January 2013, 45 key Fang informants were selected, including community leaders, tribal elders, healthcare workers, traditional healers, and non-Catholic pastors in 39 of 724 Fang tribal villages in 6 of 13 districts in the mainland region of Equatorial Guinea. An ethnographic approach with an emic-etic perspective was employed. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews, participant observation and a questionnaire that included DHS6 key indicators. Interviews were designed based on the Cultural Formulation form in the DSM-5 and explored the definition of Fang cultural syndromes, symptoms, cultural perceptions of cause, and current help-seeking. Participants defined "Fang culture-bound syndromes" as those diseases that cannot be cured, treated, or diagnosed by science. Such syndromes present with the same signs and symptoms as diseases identified by Western medicine. However, they arise because of the actions of enemies, because of the actions of spirits or ancestors, as punishments for disregarding the law of God, because of the violation of sexual or dietary taboos, or because of the violation of a Fang rite of passage, the dzas, which is celebrated at birth. Six Fang culture-bound syndromes were included in the study: 1) Eluma, a disease that is targeted at the victim out of envy and starts out with sharp, intense, focussed pain and aggressiveness; 2) Witchcraft, characterized by isolation from the outside, socially maladaptive behaviour, and the use of hallucinogenic substances; 3) Kong, which is common among the wealthy class and manifests as a disconnection from the environment and a lack of vital energy; 4) Mibili, a possession by evil spirits that manifests through visual and auditory hallucinations; 5) Mikug, which appears after a person has had contact with human bones in a ritual; and 6) Nsamadalu, which emerges after a traumatic process caused by violating traditions through having sexual relations with one's sister or brother. The therapeutic resources of choice for addressing Fang culture-bound syndromes were traditional Fang medicine and the religious practices of the Bethany and Pentecostal churches, among others. Among African ethnic groups, symbolism, the weight of tradition, and the principle of chance in health and disease are underlying factors in the presentation of certain diseases, which in ethno-psychiatry are now referred to as culture-bound syndromes. In this study, traditional healers, elders, healthcare professionals, religious figures, and leaders of the Fang community in Equatorial Guinea referred to six such cultural syndromes: eluma, witchcraft, kong, mibili, mikug, and nsamadalu. In the absence of a multidisciplinary approach to mental illness in the country, the Fang ethnic group seeks healthcare for culture-bound syndromes from traditional healing and religious rites in the Evangelical faiths.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To explore parents' and professionals' perceived causes and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) on the Kenyan Coast. METHODS:In-depth interviews and focus group discussions using guiding questions were utilized in data collection. One hundred and three participants, who included parents of children with ASD, special needs teachers, clinicians, and social workers from diverse cultural background, participated in this study. The interviews and focus groups were recorded, transcribed verbatim and then translated to English. Themes were generated using content analysis. RESULTS:Preternatural causes were mentioned and included evil spirits, witchcraft, and curses. Biomedical causes comprised infections, drug abuse, birth complications, malnutrition, and genetic related problems. Treatment varied from traditional and spiritual healing to modern treatment in health facilities, and included consultations with traditional healers, offering prayers to God, and visits to hospitals. CONCLUSIONS:The results suggest that regardless of cultural backgrounds, people on the Kenyan Coast have similar views on perceived causes and treatment of ASD. These findings provide valuable conceptual understanding for professionals when planning and implementing community based rehabilitation interventions targeting children with ASD within a local context.
Project description:About 70% of the beverage alcohol consumed in China annually is spirits. Recorded spirits make up most spirit consumption, but about 25% of total alcohol consumption (1.7 L pure alcohol per capita annually) is unrecorded spirits (bai jiu), either homemade or made in unregulated distilleries. In some parts of China, the consumption of unrecorded spirits is higher than average. This paper compares the patterns of use of unrecorded distilled spirits and recorded distilled spirits among rural residents in Central China. Interviews were conducted with 3298 individuals in 21 towns/villages in 10 counties in the Hubei, Anhui, and Hebei provinces in the People's Republic of China. Unrecorded bai jiu drinkers chose it because of its taste and its low price. It was consumed mostly by older men, mostly at home with family, more regularly and at higher alcohol by volume (ABV) compared to recorded alcohol. Recorded bai jiu drinkers were more likely to drink away from their homes, consumed more bai jiu at memorable drinking occasions, and reported feeling sick after drinking more often than unrecorded bai jiu drinkers. This comparison of patterns of use of unrecorded bai jiu and recorded bai jiu does not suggest that unrecorded bai jiu is more problematic for drinkers.
Project description:Naturally occurring and psychedelic drug-occasioned experiences interpreted as personal encounters with God are well described but have not been systematically compared. In this study, five groups of individuals participated in an online survey with detailed questions characterizing the subjective phenomena, interpretation, and persisting changes attributed to their single most memorable God encounter experience (n = 809 Non-Drug, 1184 psilocybin, 1251 lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 435 ayahuasca, and 606 N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)). Analyses of differences in experiences were adjusted statistically for demographic differences between groups. The Non-Drug Group was most likely to choose "God" as the best descriptor of that which was encountered while the psychedelic groups were most likely to choose "Ultimate Reality." Although there were some other differences between non-drug and the combined psychedelic group, as well as between the four psychedelic groups, the similarities among these groups were most striking. Most participants reported vivid memories of the encounter experience, which frequently involved communication with something having the attributes of being conscious, benevolent, intelligent, sacred, eternal, and all-knowing. The encounter experience fulfilled a priori criteria for being a complete mystical experience in approximately half of the participants. More than two-thirds of those who identified as atheist before the experience no longer identified as atheist afterwards. These experiences were rated as among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant lifetime experiences, with moderate to strong persisting positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning attributed to these experiences. Among the four groups of psychedelic users, the psilocybin and LSD groups were most similar and the ayahuasca group tended to have the highest rates of endorsing positive features and enduring consequences of the experience. Future exploration of predisposing factors and phenomenological and neural correlates of such experiences may provide new insights into religious and spiritual beliefs that have been integral to shaping human culture since time immemorial.