Relations between Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava Devotional Practices and Implicit and Explicit Anthropomorphic Reasoning about Kṛṣṇa

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2016-01-01
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Chilcott, Travis
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Employing a narrative comprehension task procedure, this study tests the hypothesis that engagement in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava religious practices, which are aimed at cultivating a personal relationship with the Hindu deity Kṛṣṇa, predict increased implicit attribution of anthropomorphic properties to him. Contrary to our hypothesis, multiple regression analyses of data from 184 native Krishna devotees in West Bengal, India, indicated that increased engagement in these practices loaded as a tertiary predictor after education and age, such that increased practice predicted a decrease in implicit anthropomorphic reasoning about Kṛṣṇa (ß = 0.16, p < 0.03). Based on these and additional analyses of the data, we theorize that these results may be due to the tradition’s emphasis on presenting Kṛṣṇa’s non-anthropomorphic dimensions to neophyte practitioners and the non-Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava public. One implication of these results is that religious cultures and engagement in religious practices have the potential to significantly affect a human cognitive tendency to implicitly attribute anthropomorphic properties to divine beings. This may result from developing alternative knowledge from which to reason about a deity by engaging in religious practices and beliefs shaped by particular theological, historical, and cultural factors.

Employing a narrative comprehension task procedure, this study tests the hypothesis that engagement in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava religious practices, which are aimed at cultivating a personal relationship with the Hindu deity Kṛṣṇa, predict increased implicit attribution of anthropomorphic properties to him. Contrary to our hypothesis, multiple regression analyses of data from 184 native Krishna devotees in West Bengal, India, indicated that increased engagement in these practices loaded as a tertiary predictor after education and age, such that increased practice predicted a decrease in implicit anthropomorphic reasoning about Kṛṣṇa (ß = 0.16, p < 0.03). Based on these and additional analyses of the data, we theorize that these results may be due to the tradition’s emphasis on presenting Kṛṣṇa’s non-anthropomorphic dimensions to neophyte practitioners and the non-Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava public. One implication of these results is that religious cultures and engagement in religious practices have the potential to significantly affect a human cognitive tendency to implicitly attribute anthropomorphic properties to divine beings. This may result from developing alternative knowledge from which to reason about a deity by engaging in religious practices and beliefs shaped by particular theological, historical, and cultural factors.

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This is a manuscript of an article from Journal of Cognition and Culture 16 (2016): 107, doi:10.1163/15685373-12342170. Posted with permission.

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