Rita Anne McNamara

Rita Anne McNamara
Victoria University of Wellington · School of Psychology

BA, MA, PhD

About

37
Publications
15,108
Reads
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1,648
Citations
Citations since 2016
33 Research Items
1599 Citations
20162017201820192020202120220100200300
20162017201820192020202120220100200300
20162017201820192020202120220100200300
20162017201820192020202120220100200300
Additional affiliations
September 2016 - present
Victoria University of Wellington
Position
  • Lecturer
September 2010 - August 2016
University of British Columbia - Vancouver
Position
  • Student
July 2009 - July 2010
Yale University
Position
  • Laboratory Manager

Publications

Publications (37)
Article
Full-text available
The existential security hypothesis predicts that in the absence of more successful secular institutions, people will be attracted to religion when they are materially insecure. Most assessments, however, employ data sampled at a state-level with a focus on world religions. Using individual-level data collected in societies of varied community size...
Article
There are compelling reasons to expect that cognitively representing any active, powerful deity motivates cooperative behavior. One mechanism underlying this association could be a cognitive bias toward generally attributing moral concern to anthropomorphic agents. If humans cognitively represent the minds of deities and humans in the same way, and...
Preprint
Full-text available
How do beliefs about gods vary across populations, and what accounts for this variation? We argue that appeals to gods generally reflect prominent features of local social ecologies. We first draw from a synthesis of theoretical, experimental, and ethnographic evidence to delineate a set of predictive criteria for the kinds of contexts with which r...
Preprint
Most existing research on beliefs about supernatural agents assumes a Western model of mind that posits a) one can infer others’ thoughts, and b) mental state inference is the best explanation for actions. Other cultures view minds differently. We recruit Indigenous iTaukei Fijian communities who hold 1) a local model of mind that discourages menta...
Preprint
Full-text available
There are compelling reasons to expect that representing any active, powerful god or spirit may contribute to cooperation. One possible mechanism underlying this effect is a system that infers that spiritual agents are morally concerned. If individuals cognitive represent deities as agents, and if agents are generally conceptualized as having moral...
Article
What believers say about gods’ thoughts, concerns, and dispositions reflects both the minds of believers and the societies in which they live. A review of the psychology of religion literature reveals a paradox: individuals benefit from belief in divine benevolence, while groups benefit from belief in divine punishment. We propose that a resolution...
Article
Full-text available
In Cognitive Gadgets , Heyes seeks to unite evolutionary psychology with cultural evolutionary theory. Although we applaud this unifying effort, we find it falls short of considering how culture itself evolves to produce indigenous psychologies fitted to particular environments. We focus on mentalizing and autobiographical memory as examples of how...
Article
Full-text available
The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant co-religionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to...
Article
Full-text available
The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant co-religionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to...
Article
Full-text available
Previous research suggests that how people conceive of minds depends on the culture in which they live, both in determining how they interact with other human minds and how they infer the unseen minds of gods. We use exploratory factor analysis to compare how people from different societies with distinct models of human minds and different religiou...
Article
Community psychology has long stood as a social justice agitator that encouraged reformation both within and outside of the academy, while keeping a firm goal of building greater well‐being for people in communities. However, community psychology's historically Euro‐centric orientation and applied, interventionist focus may inadvertently promote co...
Article
Mental state reasoning has been theorized as a core feature of how we navigate our social worlds, and as especially vital to moral reasoning. Judgments of moral wrong-doing and punish-worthiness often hinge upon evaluations of the perpetrator's mental states. In two studies, we examine how differences in cultural conceptions about how one should th...
Article
Boyer & Petersen (B&P) lay out an evolutionarily grounded framework to produce concrete, testable predictions about economic phenomena. We commend this step forward, but suggest the framework requires more consideration of cultural contexts that provide necessary input for cognitive systems to operate on. We discuss the role of culture when examini...
Article
Full-text available
Does moral culture contribute to the evolution of cooperation? Here, we examine individuals' and communities' models of what it means to be good and bad and how they correspond to corollary behavior across a variety of socioecological contexts. Our sample includes over 600 people from eight different field sites that include foragers, horticultural...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers have recently proposed that "moralistic" religions-those with moral doctrines, moralistic supernatural punishment, and lower emphasis on ritual-emerged as an effect of greater wealth and material security. One interpretation appeals to life history theory, predicting that individuals with "slow life history" strategies will be more attr...
Data
Descriptive demographic statistics, methods, statistical models, main and supplementary analyses. (PDF)
Preprint
Researchers explain cultural phenomena ranging from cognitive biases to widespread religious beliefs by assuming intuitive dualism: humans imagine minds and bodies as distinct and separable. We examine dualist intuition development across two societies that differ in normative focus on thinking about minds. We use a new method that measures people’...
Preprint
Mental state reasoning has been theorized as a core feature of how we navigate our social worlds, and as especially vital to moral reasoning. Judgments of moral wrong-doing and punish- worthiness often hinge upon evaluations of the perpetrator’s mental states. In two studies, we examine how differences in cultural conceptions about how one should t...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers explain cultural phenomena ranging from cognitive biases to widespread religious beliefs by assuming intuitive dualism: humans imagine minds and bodies as distinct and separable. We examine dualist intuition development across two societies that differ in normative focus on thinking about minds. We use a new method that measures people’...
Article
We investigate how religious beliefs in an omnipotent, omniscient God vs. locally concerned, more limited gods impact prosocial behavior at varying degrees of social distance. We recruit participants from traditional villages on Yasawa Island, Fiji. Yasawan religion includes belief in both universalistic Christian teachings and local deified ancest...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the expansion of human sociality and cooperation beyond kith and kin remains an important evolutionary puzzle. There is likely a complex web of processes including institutions, norms, and practices that contributes to this phenomenon. Considerable evidence suggests that one such process involves certain components of religious system...
Article
Full-text available
A considerable body of research cross-culturally examines the evolution of religious traditions, beliefs and behaviors. The bulk of this research, however, draws from coded qualitative ethnographies rather than from standardized methods specifically designed to measure religious beliefs and behaviors. Psychological data sets that examine religious...
Article
Genes shared through common ancestry are among the oldest social bonds. Despite these ancient roots, humans often co-opt the psychology of genetic relatedness and extend it to genetically unrelated others through culturally-acquired kinship systems. We investigate how genealogical relatedness and kinship norms might mutually support or oppose each...
Article
Full-text available
Since the origins of agriculture, the scale of human cooperation and societal complexity has dramatically expanded. This fact challenges standard evolutionary explanations of prosociality because well-studied mechanisms of cooperation based on genetic relatedness, reciprocity and partner choice falter as people increasingly engage in fleeting trans...
Article
Full-text available
In our response to the 27 commentaries, we refine the theoretical claims, clarify several misconceptions of our framework, and explore substantial disagreements. In doing so, we (1) show that our framework accommodates multiple historical scenarios; (2) debate the historical evidence, particularly about “pre-Axial” religions; (3) offer important de...
Article
Full-text available
We present a cultural evolutionary theory of the origins of prosocial religion s, and address two puzzles in human psychology and cultural history: 1) the rise of large-scale cooperation and 2) the simultaneous spread of prosocial religions in the last ten-to-twelve millennia. We argue that these two developments were importantly linked and mutuall...
Article
Full-text available
Anthropologists have documented substantial cross-society variation in people's willingness to treat strangers with impartial, universal norms versus favoring members of their local community. Researchers have proposed several adaptive accounts for these differences. One variant of the pathogen stress hypothesis predicts that people will be more li...
Article
Full-text available
Threat of supernatural punishment can promote prosociality in large-scale societies; however, its impact in smaller societies with less powerful deities is less understood. Also, while perceived material insecurity has been associated with increasing religious belief, the relationships between insecurity, supernatural punishment beliefs, and prosoc...

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Projects

Projects (3)
Project
The current study investigates whether explicit religious primes have an influence on individuals’ religious belief system and the related agentic self-regulatory processes that implicate in the cognition and behavioural conducts relevant to the domain of moral sanctity/purity, especially in the existentially insecure environments. Introjected and identified regulations are two types of religious internalisation, and represent meaningful reasons why individuals engage in religious behaviours (Ryan, Rigby, & King, 1993). Introjected regulation involves religious behaviours that are helpful in the avoidance of guilty feeing but are not fully integrated into one’s personal values. In contrast, identified regulation involves religious behaviours that are fully integrated into one’s personal values. We also, therefore, analyse whether the manifestations of agentic self-regulation motivated by religious prescriptive principles differ as a function of these two types of religious internalisation. Using a free-listing method, the study also examines the qualitative understanding of how these individuals describe three key psychological concepts: morality, religiosity and sanctity.