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Pascal Boyer

Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology and Psychology​, Washington University in St. Louis

Pascal Robert Boyer is an American cognitive anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist of French origin, mostly known for his work in the cognitive science of religion. 

He taught at the University of Cambridge for eight years before taking up the position of Henry Luce Professor of Individual and Collective Memory at Washington University in St. Louis, where he teaches classes on psychology and anthropology. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Lyon, France. Boyer studied philosophy and anthropology at the University of Paris and Cambridge with Jack Goody, working on memory constraints on the transmission of oral literature.

Boyer is an anthropologist who studies how human biases and cognitive faculties have resulted in or encouraged cultural phenomena. He advocates the idea that human evolution resulted in specialized capacities that guide our social relations, culture, and predilections toward religious beliefs. Boyer and others propose that these cognitive mechanisms make the acquisition of “religious” themes, like concepts of spirits, ghosts, ancestors or gods, highly transmissible within a community

Topic Series


Minds Make Societies: How Cognition Explains the World Humans Create

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Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought

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