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    Research Statement

    Assistant Director, Institute of Cognition and Culture

    DPhil, MSc (Oxford), MA (Missouri)

    Dr. Lanman joined the School in 2012, after working as a Departmental Lecturer (2009-2011) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2011-2012) in Anthropology at the University of Oxford and a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology at The University of British Columbia.

    Research Interests

    Dr. Lanman's research addresses two main areas in the scientific study of religion.  Across both areas, he aims to integrate theories and methodologies from the social, cognitive, and evolutionary sciences with ethnographic and historical research.  While his geographic area of interest is international, his work has focused on the North Atlantic world with a comparative focus on the contemporary United States.


    1) Atheism & Secularization

    His work on atheism and secularization aims to provide an account of why some individuals become theists and others become non-theists, why some nations have much higher proportions of non-theists than others, and why some non-theists engage in anti-religious social action.  This research engages literature on cognitive biases, existential security, hypocrisy, threat detection, coalitionary psychology, and moral psychology and focuses on the United States, United Kingdom, and Scandinavia. 

    In collaboration with Lois Lee (UCL), Stephen Bullivant (St. Mary's), and Miguel Farias (Coventry), he is continuing this research as a PI on a John Templeton Funded grant entitled "Understanding Unbelief" (£2.3m, 2017-2019),  a large, international, and interdisciplinary programme of research on unbelief around the world.


    2) Religious Identity, Ritual, and Self-Sacrifice

    Dr. Lanman's  collaborative work on religious identity, ritual, and self-sacrifice aims to provide an account of the nature and catalysts of religious cohesion and the relative contributions of belief, ritual, values, and identity in explaining individual willingness to die for a religious group.  This research engages literature on belief, ritual, memory, identity fusion, psychological kinship, sacred values, and martyrdom and is international with a focus on the United States and Europe. 

    In collaboration with Harvey Whitehouse (Oxford), William Swann (Texas), Michael Buhrmester (Oxford/Texas), and others, he is continuing this research (2011-2017) as part of a £3.2m project funded by the ESRC entitled Ritual, Community, and Conflict.  


    For further detail of Dr. Lanman's research, see his interview in the New Science of Religion series.



    Power, Ritual, and Symbol, ANT1004

    Cognition and Culture, ANT2034/ANT3147

    Religion and Ritual, ANT3006

    Evolution and Human Behavior, ANT7019

    Cognitive Science of Religion, ANT7021




    Other Online Media

    • British Humanist Association & Centre for Inquiry:  "Atheism: The View from Cognitive Science." Lecture given at Conway Hall in 2014.

    Willingness to take PhD students


    PhD projects

    I am open to PhD applications in the fields of:
    - Cognitive Anthropology of Religion and Ritual
    - Cognitive Anthropology of Atheism

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    Frequent Journals

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    Contribution to conference papers, events and activities

    ID: 1635431