Joseph A Bulbulia

Joseph A Bulbulia
University of Auckland · School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, Theological and Religious Studies

PhD, Princeton University 2001

About

204
Publications
85,400
Reads
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5,112
Citations
Introduction
Joseph Bulbulia is a professor of psychological science at Victoria University (New Zealand) interested in religion, and lots else.
Additional affiliations
January 2017 - February 2017
Victoria University of Wellington
Position
  • Professor
January 2012 - present
Masaryk University
Position
  • Principle
August 2000 - present
Victoria University of Wellington
Position
  • A/Prof.

Publications

Publications (204)
Article
Full-text available
The relation between religiosity and well-being is one of the most researched topics in the psychology of religion, yet the directionality and robustness of the effect remains debated. Here, we adopted a many-analysts approach to assess the robustness of this relation based on a new cross-cultural dataset (N = 10, 535 participants from 24 countries...
Article
Full-text available
The causal interpretation of a statistical association requires assumptions. Where the data are cross-sectional or cross-cultural these assumptions are even stronger. Here, I leverage a rigorous potential outcomes framework from contemporary epidemiology to (1) sharpen the causal question of whether religious service attendance reduces anxiety, and...
Preprint
The long-term psychological effects of terrorist attacks on social attitudes are unknown and challenging to estimate. The 2019 Christchurch New Zealand mosque attacks initially increased the public acceptance of Muslims, the targeted minority. However, whether this minority-acceptance effect is durable, or instead follows a transitory “rallying to...
Preprint
Full-text available
Is it possible to predict COVID-19 vaccination status prior to the existence and availability of COVID-19 vaccines? Here, we present a logistic model by regressing decisions to vaccinate in late 2021 on lagged sociodemographic, health, social, and political indicators from 2019 in a sample of New Zealand adults aged between 18 and 94 (Mage = 52.92,...
Article
Full-text available
People tend to evaluate information from reliable sources more favourably, but it is unclear exactly how perceivers’ worldviews interact with this source credibility effect. In a large and diverse cross-cultural sample (N = 10,195 from 24 countries), we presented participants with obscure, meaningless statements attributed to either a spiritual gur...
Article
Full-text available
Humans invest in fantastic stories—mythologies. Recent evolutionary theories suggest that cultural selection may favour moralising stories that motivate prosocial behaviours. A key challenge is to explain the emergence of mythologies that lack explicit moral exemplars or directives. Here, we resolve this puzzle with an evolutionary model in which a...
Preprint
The causal interpretation of a statistical association requires assumptions. Where the data are cross-sectional or cross-cultural these assumptions are even stronger. Here, I leverage a rigorous potential outcomes framework from contemporary epidemiology to (1) sharpen the causal question of whether religious service attendance reduces anxiety, and...
Article
Which aspects of psychopathic personality, if any, contribute to professional success? Previous research suggests that fearless dominance does so. Yet, it also suggests that self-centered impulsivity impairs professional success. Here, we address this differential pattern in a preregistered, multi-wave study involving a large, nationally representa...
Article
Full-text available
The Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15th, 2019 was the deadliest incident of mass violence in New Zealand for over a century. The present study investigated the psychological impact of these terrorist attacks targeting a specific minority community on the psychological functioning of the wider New Zealand population by examining changes in t...
Article
People in a state of awe have been found to perceive their needs as small while also expressing intentions to act in a prosocial way, benefitting others at personal cost. However, these findings come largely out of the USA and have focused on intended rather than real prosocial behavior. We propose a contextual model of the awe-prosociality relatio...
Article
Full-text available
Is having children related to benevolent sexism? Two theoretical accounts—benevolent sexism as role justification and benevolent sexism as a mating strategy—suggest the possibility of a positive and bidirectional association. Gender disparities in childrearing could prompt inequality-justifying endorsement of benevolent sexism and/or endorsing bene...
Article
Full-text available
Humans all over the world believe in spirits and deities, yet how the brain supports religious cognition remains unclear. Drawing on a unique sample of patients with penetrating traumatic brain injuries (pTBI) and matched healthy controls (HCs) we investigate dependencies of religious cognition on neural networks that represent (1) others agents’ i...
Article
Previous research finds an association between spirituality and subjective well-being. However, the widespread use of poorly defined concepts of spirituality, tautological spirituality scales, and heavy reliance on cross-sectional samples cast doubts on prior findings. Here, we leverage ten waves of panel data from a nationally diverse longitudinal...
Article
Full-text available
This article examines the impact of the 15th March 2019 far-right terrorist attack against Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand on public opinion toward Muslims. It also examines whether the impact of the attack varies for individuals across the political spectrum. We make use of data from the 2019 New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (N = 47,951...
Preprint
Full-text available
People tend to evaluate information from reliable sources more favourably, but it is unclear exactly how perceivers' worldviews interact with this source credibility effect. Here, we present data from a cross-cultural study in which individuals (N = 10,195) from a religiously and culturally diverse sample of 24 countries were presented with obscure...
Preprint
Recent research in New Zealand, Australia, China, and the United States finds that COVID-19 increased psychological distress as measured by the Kessler-6 inventory. It is theorised that health risks, loss of employment, and economic downturn precipitated by COVID-19 produced distress, and that confidence in government, social belonging, and sense o...
Article
It has been argued that church attendance benefits mental health by buffering against stress. However, underlying mechanisms are debated and longitudinal evidence is scarce. We use eight years of longitudinal population-representative data from New Zealand to test whether consistent church attendance translates into sustained reductions in distress...
Preprint
Humans invest in fantastic stories -- mythologies.Recent evolutionary theories suggest that cultural selection may favour moralising stories that motivate prosocial behaviours.A key challenge is to explain the emergence of mythologies that lack explicit moral exemplars or directives. Here, we resolve this puzzle with an evolutionary model in which...
Preprint
Full-text available
We leverage powerful time-series data from a national longitudinal sample measured before the COVID-19 pandemic and during the world's eighth most stringent COVID-19 lockdown (New Zealand, March-April 2020, N = 940) and apply Bayesian multilevel mediation models to rigorously test five theories of pandemic distress. Findings: (1) during lockdown, r...
Article
Full-text available
Rituals are performed within specific socio-ecological niches, yet the different effects of the same ritual form across different niches (community contexts) remains unclear. Here, using longitudinal measures over a two-week period during Diwali (the Indian festival of light), we investigate the relationship between ritual time allocation and socia...
Article
Full-text available
Previous longitudinal research indicates that although religion may affect how personality traits are expressed, religion does not affect people's underlying personalities. However, such research has drawn from small North American samples and relatively short time intervals that do not include data from individuals prior to conversion. Here, we us...
Article
Full-text available
Following the March 15th Christchurch terrorist attack, members of our research team have been repeatedly asked to comment or provide summary statistics from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) on prejudice toward Muslims. As the curators of the NZAVS, we think that these findings should be in the public domain and accessible to as w...
Article
Full-text available
Although the relationship between pet ownership and health and wellbeing has received considerable attention in popular media, research on the topic shows inconsistent findings. We addressed the methodological weaknesses of previous studies by using data from a national probability survey (the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study; n = 13,347). We...
Article
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Many aspects of religious rituals suggest they provide adaptive benefits. Studies across societies consistently find that investments in ritual behaviour return high levels of cooperation. Another line of research finds that alloparental support to mothers increases maternal fertility and improves child outcomes. Although plausible, whether religio...
Preprint
Research indicates COVID-19 lockdowns elevated psychological distress. Here, we leverage national panel data before and during New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown to clarify distress buffers (2018/2020, N = 940). To distinguish lockdown-related distress from natural disasters, we investigate distress dynamics following the Christchurch earthquakes (201...
Preprint
New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown in March/April 2020 imposed severe economic and social restrictions, which occurred in a setting of pervasive health and economic uncertainties. Here, we leverage national longitudinal data from 2018 and during severe lockdown to systematically quantify the evolution of psychological-distress trajectories within the...
Article
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Considerable progress in explaining cultural evolutionary dynamics has been made by applying rigorous models from the natural sciences to historical and ethnographic information collected and accessed using novel digital platforms. Initial results have clarified several long-standing debates in cultural evolutionary studies, such as population orig...
Article
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The contagiousness and deadliness of COVID-19 have necessitated drastic social management to halt transmission. The immediate effects of a nationwide lockdown were investigated by comparing matched samples of New Zealanders assessed before (Npre-lockdown = 1,003) and during the first 18 days of lockdown (Nlockdown = 1,003). Two categories of outcom...
Article
A strong personal relationship with God is theoretically and empirically associated with an enhanced sense of control. While a growing body of research is focused on understanding the neural mechanisms underlying religious belief, little is known about the brain basis of the link between a personal relationship with God and sense of control. Here,...
Preprint
More than 1 billion people worldwide report no religious affiliation. These religious “nones” represent the world’s third largest religion-related identity group and are a diverse group, with some having previous religious identification and others never identifying as religious. We examined how three forms of religious identification—current, form...
Preprint
The contagiousness and deadliness of COVID-19 have necessitated drastic social management to halt transmission. The immediate effects of a nationwide lockdown were investigated by comparing matched samples of New Zealanders assessed before (Npre-lockdown = 1,003) and during the first 18 days of lockdown (Nlockdown = 1,003). Two categories of outcom...
Article
More than 1 billion people worldwide report no religious affiliation. These religious "nones" represent the world's third largest religion-related identity group and are a diverse group, with some having previous religious identification and others never identifying as religious. We examined how 3 forms of religious identification-current, former,...
Article
Full-text available
The March 15th terrorist attack started a national dialogue about prejudice in New Zealand. Previous research has investigated attitudes towards Muslims in comparison to ethnic minorities. However, presently, there are no nationally representative studies in New Zealand systematically comparing attitudes to Muslims with attitudes to other religious...
Article
Religion’s neural underpinnings have long been a topic of speculation and debate, but an emerging neuroscience of religion is beginning to clarify which regions of the brain integrate moral, ritual, and supernatural religious beliefs with functionally adaptive responses. Here, we review evidence indicating that religious cognition involves a comple...
Article
In a single comprehensive model, using a large nationally representative sample, we investigate longitudinal relationships between mental distress and “Big Six” personality using an analysis approach sensitive to dynamic effects (i.e., to effects of deviations from individual trajectories). We find that, consistent with a mechanism involving scarri...
Article
Religious groups differ in theology, ritual, and modes of self-governance. However, the extent to which such differences capture the variation of religious individuals remains unclear. Latent Profile Analysis offers a powerful statistical method for obtaining typologies from the response profiles of religious individuals. Here, we draw on a nationa...
Article
Full-text available
In light of the methodological and ethical issues associated with using a male/female tick box to collect gender data, researchers are increasingly questioning how to measure gender inclusively in survey research. Open-ended measures afford the greatest flexibility, though whether they are practical for large-scale surveys has yet to be tested. Her...
Article
Full-text available
Negative beliefs about only children suggest that they are spoiled and unlikable, with these early personality differences persisting across the lifespan. Early research found little support for the idea, yet, negative views towards only children remain prevalent. The current research re-visited the issue using a large national panel study of New Z...
Article
Although the growing prevalence of social media usage raises concerns about its potentially negative impact on mental health and distress, research has found mixed results. This study resolves these inconsistencies by examining the association between hours of time spent on social media use and psychological distress in a sample of New Zealand adul...
Preprint
Full-text available
Whitehouse, et al.’s creation of the Seshat open archaeo-historical databank is laudable. However, the authors’ analysis methods, treatment of missing data, and source quality undermine the paper’s key conclusion that moralizing deities appear only after rapid increases in social complexity. First, their report fails to address the inherent ‘forwar...
Preprint
Full-text available
Whitehouse, et al.’s creation of the Seshat open archaeo-historical databank is laudable. However, the authors’ analysis methods, treatment of missing data, and source quality undermine the paper’s key conclusion that moralizing deities appear only after rapid increases in social complexity. First, their report fails to address the inherent ‘forwar...
Article
Full-text available
Life history theory anticipates that organisms trade offspring quantity for offspring quality. In modern human societies this tradeoff is particularly acute because of increased returns on investments in embodied capital. Religious people, however, despite having more children than their secular counterparts, do not appear to suffer lower quality o...
Article
Full-text available
Many communities in New Zealand were left shaken following the terrorist attack against two Muslim mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. However, historical records and expert assessments warned of a far-right anti-Muslim act of violence for some time. Our study examined people's reported anxiety about the possibility of a terrorist attack in...
Article
Prejudice against Muslims is prevalent in many Western countries. Past research finds that non-Muslim New Zealanders, while generally accepting of all minority groups, nevertheless exhibit relatively lower warmth towards Muslims. Somewhat unexpectedly, previous research in New Zealand has found that high levels of religious identification is associ...
Article
Full-text available
We aimed to examine the link between two types of joint action (synchrony and asynchrony) and creativity (both divergent thinking and convergent thinking) using an established experimental paradigm. A secondary aim was to replicate and extend the amplified positive effects of shared intentionality (i.e., having a shared common goal) on social and a...
Article
Full-text available
Over the past 2,000 years, Christianity has grown from a tiny Judaic sect to the world’s largest religious family¹. Historians and social scientists have long debated whether Christianity spread through a top-down process driven by political leaders or a bottom-up process that empowered social underclasses2–6. The Christianization of Austronesian p...
Article
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In the version of this Letter originally published, acknowledgement of funding for the authors Annika M. Svedholm-Häkkinen and Tapani Riekki by the Academy of Finland was mistakenly omitted. This has now been included in the Acknowledgements section of the Letter.
Article
Magical ideation refers to beliefs about causality that lack empirical bases. Few studies have investigated the neural correlates of magical thinking and religious beliefs. Here, we investigate the association between magical ideation and religious experience in a sample of Vietnam veterans who sustained penetrating traumatic brain injury (pTBI) an...
Article
Full-text available
Religious belief is a topic of longstanding interest to psychological science, but the psychology of religious disbelief is a relative newcomer. One prominently discussed model is analytic atheism, wherein cognitive reflection, as measured with the Cognitive Reflection Test, overrides religious intuitions and instruction. Consistent with this model...
Chapter
Supernatural beliefs and ritual activities co-occur, suggesting that the evolutionary functions of beliefs and rituals might be linked. However, this link has not received sufficient attention in the evolutionary literatures on religion. This chapter reviews how ‘commitment signalling’ theory explains the co-evolution of religious beliefs and ritua...
Chapter
This chapter describes an evolutionary model of religion called “charismatic signaling.” The theory focuses on features of religion that express automated within-group cooperation—that is, cooperation that does not rely on strategic reasoning or explicit social prediction. The model is interesting because it explains otherwise puzzling features of...