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Personal profile


Jonathan Jong completed his doctorate at the Department of Psychology, University of Otago, New Zealand in 2012, specializing in the role of death anxiety in religious belief. He then joined the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, working on two large projects—Ritual, Community, and Conflict and Religion’s Impact on Human Life—on the social causes and consequences of religion and ritual. He came to Coventry University in 2015, and is Deputy Director of the Brain, Belief and Behaviour group at the Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement. His book, Death Anxiety and Religious Belief (with Jamin Halberstadt) is now available from Bloomsbury, Amazon, and elsewhere.

Research Interests

Death anxiety; Religious belief; Ritual behaviour; Social psychology; Experimental psychology; Evolutionary psychology

Vision Statement

My research interests are unapologietically anthropocentric. After all, human beings are endlessly fascinating. We worship gods, and build cathedrals to them. We hold strong moral beliefs, and construct complicated systems of reward and punishment to govern them. We fall in love; and out of love. We laugh at jokes, as well as in inappropriate occasions. And we do so much more. But why? What motivates human behaviour? How do evolutionary forces and cultural contexts shape us today? These are the sorts of questions that occupy my days, and sometimes keep me up at night. My research is driven by a curiosity about why human beings do the curious and amazing things we do.

External positions

Research Associate, University of Oxford

1 Oct 201531 May 2018

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

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Research Output 2012 2019

"Belief in spiritual beings": E. B. Tylor's (primitive) cognitive theory of religion

Jong, J., Mar 2019, Edward Burnett Tylor, Religion and Culture. Tremlett, P-F., Harvey, G. & Sutherland, L. (eds.). London: Bloomsbury

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Theory of Religion
Cognitive Theory
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor
Causal Explanation

Beliefs are object-attribute associations of varying strength

Jong, J., 1 Jan 2018, In : Contemporary Pragmatism. 15, 3, p. 284-301 18 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Social Cognitive Theory

Death Anxiety and Religious Belief: responses to commentaries

Jong, J. & Halberstadt, J., 8 Feb 2018, In : Religion, Brain and Behavior. 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access