Sep 7, 2012
Both scientific and supernatural explanations frequently operate within the same mind to explain the very same event or phenomenon. Contrary to traditional psychological accounts, our research has demonstrated that supernatural explanations do not always appear early in development; nor are they primitive or immature ways of thinking that are suppressed over the course of development. Instead, like scientific explanations, they are constructed and elaborated through socialization and cultural learning and may be founded on earlier intuitive explanations.
For many people, supernatural explanations provide different kinds of information than scientific explanations. For life’s existentially arousing questions, we want explanations for why we are here, what happens when we die, and why bad things happen. With age and experience, many people increasingly integrate scientific and supernatural explanations to provide personal answers to these questions of fundamental concern to humans.
Cristine Legare is a professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin.