11 Nov 2006, Paris, France --- Symbols of the Three Monotheistic Religions --- Image by © SÈbastien DÈsarmaux/Godong/Corbis

Why do we believe in God? And what happens when we do? In our research on religion, we integrate multiple different perspectives on its origins and its functions. Most recently, we have borrowed the perspective of fellow UBC professor Ara Norenzayan and his colleagues, which states that cultural evolution processes favoured shared beliefs in Gods who are a) watchful, b) powerful, and c) concerned with human morality.

Building on these principles, we have explored the consequences of these kinds of Gods for human and societal functioning. We have explored how beliefs in God relate to self-regulation and goal pursuit, to social responsibility, to punishment to risk-taking, and even to close relationships!

*Not much current research in the lab focuses on this topic*


Engstrom, H. R., & Laurin, K. (forthcoming). Existential uncertainty and religion. In K. Vail & C. Routledge (Eds.), The science of religion, spirituality and existentialism. Elsevier.

Shariff, A. Z., & Laurin, K. (2019). Do we outsource our police work to God? In D. J. Slone & W. W. McCorkle Jr. (Eds.), The cognitive science of religion: A methodological introduction to key empirical studies (pp. 145-154). Bloomsbury Academic: London, UK.

Brulin, J. G., Hill, P. C., Laurin, K., Mikulincer, M., & Granqvist, P. (2018). Religion vs. the Welfare State: The importance of cultural context for religious schematicity and priming. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 10, 276-287.

Laurin, K. (2017). Belief in God: A cultural adaptation with important side-effects. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26, 458-463.

Khenfer, J., Laurin, K., Tafani, E., Roux, E., & Kay, A. C. (2017). Interventionist external agents make specific advice less demotivating. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 73, 189-196.

Laurin, K., & Kay, A. C. (2017). The motivational underpinnings of belief in God. In J. M. Olson (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 56, pp. 201-257). London: Academic Press.

Laurin, K. (2017). Belief in God: Evolved functions and side effects. In C. M. Zedelius, B. C. N. Müller, & J. W. Schooler (Eds.), The science of lay theories: How beliefs shape our cognition, behavior and health (pp. 243-264). Switzerland: Springer international publishing.

Khenfer, J., Roux, E., Tafani, E., & Laurin, K. (2017). When God’s (not) needed: Spotlight on how belief in divine control influences goal commitmentJournal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70, 117-123.

Laurin, K., & Kay, A. C. (2016). Religion and self-regulation. In K. D. Vohs, R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, & Applications (pp. 305-322). New York: The Guilford Press.

Laurin, K. (2015). From fundamental motives to religious dimensions: Minding the gap. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 5, 240-247.

Kupor, D., Laurin, K., & Levav, J. (2015). Anticipating divine protection? Reminders of God can increase non-moral risk-taking. Psychological Science, 26, 374-384.

Laurin, K., Schumann, K., & Holmes, J. G. (2104). A relationship With God? Connecting with the divine to assuage fears of interpersonal rejection. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 777-785.

Laurin, K., & Plaks, J. E. (2014). Religion and punishment: Opposing influences of orthopraxy and orthodoxy on reactions to unintentional acts. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 835-843.

Laurin, K., Shariff, A. Z., Henrich, J., & Kay, A. C. (2012). Outsourcing punishment to God: Beliefs in divine control reduce earthly punishment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 3272-3281.

Laurin, K., Kay, A. C., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (2012). Divergent effects of activating thoughts of god on self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 4-21.

Kay, A. C., Moscovitch, D. M., & Laurin, K. (2010). Randomness, Attributions of Arousal, and Belief in God. Psychological Science, 21, 216-218.

Laurin, K., Kay, A. C., & Moscovitch, D. M. (2008). On the belief in God: Towards an understanding of the emotional substrates of compensatory control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1559-1562.

Kay, A. C., Gaucher, D., Napier, J. L., Callan, M. J., & Laurin, K. (2008). God and the Government: Testing a compensatory control mechanism for the support of external systems. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 18-35.