4. The Experimental Study of Religion: Or There and Back Again
Kristoffer Laigaard Nielbo [+]
Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University
Within the last two decades, the cognitive science of religion has gained momentum, and this has led to a call for dedicated experimental studies addressing this level of explanation. However, what does such an experimental turn mean for the study of religion more generally? How does it affect what we study and the methods we use to study it? Does it alter with whom we cooperate, where we publish and what scholarly discussions we take part in? In this article, we discuss how the experimental study of religious phenomena changes the theoretical subject matter and how it involves a new relation between theoretical modeling, methodological reduction and generalization. We argue that, similar to all new approaches, an experimental methodology is likely to alter the study of religion in the short run, but in the longer perspective experimental approaches are likely to take their place beside other approaches that constitute the broader field of the academic study of religion.