Robert McCauley

Robert N. McCauley is currently William Rand Kenan Jr. philosophy professor at Emory University. He also serves on the advisory board at the Institute of Cognition and Culture, Queen’s University, Belfast and is a consulting editor for the Journal of Cognition and Culture. His areas of specialization are philosophy of psychology, philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of science, naturalized epistemology, and cognitive approaches to the study of religion. He has contributed a great deal to the latter area, and is particularly well known for his collaborations with E. Thomas Lawson, in which he and Lawson advance a cognitive theory of religion that emphasizes ritual within culture and its relation to the human mind.

Major Works

Mind and Religion: Cognitive and Psychological Foundations of Religiosity (2005; with Harvey Whitehouse)

Bringing Ritual to Mind: Psychological Foundations of Cultural Forms (2002; with E. Thomas Lawson)

The Churchlands and Their Critics (1996; ed.)

Rethinking Religion: Connecting Cognition and Culture (1990; with E. Thomas Lawson)


“I have also written on the psychological foundations of cultural forms.  My work in this area (most of it pursued collaboratively with E. Thomas Lawson) has concentrated on the cognitive foundations of religion and of religious ritual, in particular.  Lawson and I have advanced our theory of religious ritual competence and explored--in particular detail--one of its principal consequences, viz., the ritual form hypothesis.  We have examined their implications for such topics as ritual repetition, reversal, and substitution as well as how the connections between religious ritual form and performance frequency, sensory pageantry, and emotional arousal account not only for rituals' motivational and mnemonic effects but for various dynamic patterns religious ritual systems manifest the world over.” 

Select Web Resources on McCauley

Robert N. McCauley's Webpage

Faculty Page at Emory University

Comparing the Cognitive Foundations of Science and Religion (abstract)

Journal of Cognition and Culture (co-edited by McCauley)



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