Hard-wired belief in immortality naturally emerges early in life
Researchers examined children's ideas about "prelife," the time before conception, and found that our bias toward immortality is a part of human intuition that naturally emerges early in life.
In order to shed light on why some people believe that part of themselvesa€"some indelible core, soul or essencea€"will transcend the body's death and live forever, the researchers interviewed 283 children from two distinct cultures in Ecuador.
And the part of us that is eternal, we believe, is not our skills or ability to reason, but rather our hopes, desires and emotions. We are, in fact, what we feel.
The study by Natalie Emmons fits into a growing body of work examining the cognitive roots of religion.
"This work shows that it's possible for science to study religious belief," said Deborah Kelemen, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University and co-author of the paper. "At the same time, it helps us understand some universal aspects of human cognition and the structure of the mind."
Researchers have long suspected that people develop ideas about the afterlife through cultural exposure, like television or movies, or through religious instruction.
But perhaps, thought Emmons, these ideas of immortality actually emerge from our intuition. Just as children learn to talk without formal instruction, maybe they also intuit that part of their mind could exist apart from their body.
The study was published in journal Child Development.
(Posted on 28-01-2014)