Developmental / Cultural / Experimental Psychologist


Pre-Prints for research Under Review

Kapitány, R.,Nelsen, N., Burdett, E., & Goldstein (In Prep). The Child’s Pantheon: Children’s Hierarchical Belief Structure in Real and Non-Real Figures. Pre-Print Available.

How nuanced is a child’s understanding of real, unreal, natural and supernatural figures? Do children regard some figures, like Santa Claus or an alien, as more real than others, like Princess Elsa or a unicorn? We asked 95 children (aged 2 - 11 years) and 56 adults ‘how real’ they believed 13 individual figures were. These 13 figures were categorized into five a priori groups based on 1) whether the figure was veridical, 2) whether children receive direct evidence of the figure’s existence, 3) whether children receive indirect evidence of the figure’s existence, 4) whether the figure was associated with specific behavioral rituals or norms, and 5) whether the figure was explicitly presented as fictional. The categories (and figures) included ‘Real People’ (a person known to the child, The Wiggles), ‘Cultural Figures’ (Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy), ‘Ambiguous Figures’ (Dinosaurs, Aliens), ‘Mythical Figures’ (unicorns, ghosts, dragons), and ‘Fictional Figures’ (Spongebob Squarepants, Princess Elsa, Peter Pan). A cluster analysis, based exclusively on children’s ‘realness’ scores, revealed a sensible grouping structure broadly in agreement with our hypotheses. Multilevel regressions revealed a sensible hierarchy of belief, and unique developmental trajectories for each category of figure, indicating a trend toward an ‘adult-like’ and veridical understanding of the world. We suggest that cultural rituals (such as putting out christmas trees, hunting for easter eggs, and hiding teeth under a pillow) associated with ‘Cultural Figures’ are a powerful and empirically under-researched factor in generating and sustaining in a child’s endorsement for a figure’s reality status.

Kavanagh, C., Wibisono, S., Kapitány, R., Yustisi W., Eka Putra, I., Rufaidah, A., & Whitehouse, H. (under review). Group identification better predicts parochial attitudes than identity fusion amongst Indonesian Islamists. Pre-Print forthcoming.

Indonesia is the most populous Islamic country. The size and diversity of beliefs and practices of Indonesian Muslims afford an opportunity to examine how different communities and their associated religious ritual practices and ideologies can influence their bonds with relevant groups and levels of support for parochial behavior. In particular, we examine the predictive power of two distinct types of group bonding, group identification and identity fusion, among individuals from three Sunni politico-religious groups - a fundamentalist group (PKS), a moderate group (NU), and a control sample of politically unaffiliated citizens. As anticipated, fundamentalists were more fused to targets than moderates or citizens, but contrary to theory, we found across all groups, that group identification (not fusion) better predicted parochialism, including willingness to commit extreme pro-group action. We discuss how religious beliefs and practice impact parochial attitudes, as well as the implications for theoretical models linking fusion to extreme behavior.

Research that is In Prep and nearing submission.

Kapitány, R., Reindl,E., & Nielsen, M. (In Prep). An experimental investigation of supernatural oversight on children’s reproduction of ritualistic and overimitative behavior.

Kapitány, R., Kavanagh, K., & Whitehouse, H. (In Prep). Ritual Morphospace Revisited: The form, function, and factor structure of ritual practice.