Dr. Laird Edman Professor of Psychology; Department Chair


Ph.D., University of Minnesota
M.A., (Psychology), University of Notre Dame
M.A., (English), University of Notre Dame
B.A., Luther College

VPH 211A

Laird Edman specializes in the cognitive science of religion, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and teaching and assessing critical thinking. He holds a doctorate in educational psychology that focused on cognition and learning from the University of Minnesota, as well as master’s degrees in counseling psychology and English literature from the University of Notre Dame.

Dr. Edman’s research has been published in The Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, The Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Psychological Reports, The Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Resources in Education, Teaching and Learning in Honors, and The National Honors Report. He has also presented papers, workshops and seminars at the annual conferences of the American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion, National Collegiate Honors Council, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and American Educational Research Association.

Prior to joining Northwestern’s faculty, Dr. Edman taught at the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Waldorf, and Luther College. He received the Teaching Excellence award from Northwestern in 2008 and 2017, and he also holds Teacher of the Year awards from Waldorf College and the Honors Program at Iowa State University. At NWC he advises senior research students and teaches Research Methods, History and Systems of Psychology, General Psychology, Learning and Cognition, Statistics, Psychology of Religion, and Psychology, Faith and Values: Senior Capstone.

Edman was a visiting scholar in Science and Religion: Scholarship & Christianity at Oxford University in 2015-16, doing research on cognitive and psychological issues related to worship and discipleship. He held the Northwestern College Endowed Professorship from 2011-16. His latest project involves translating research and theory in the cognitive science of religion for use in the Christian church. The primary output will be a book written for church leaders, but the project also includes other writing (journal and popular press articles) as well as preparations for a pastor’s conference on this topic. The project, conducted with Dr. Myron Penner from Trinity Western University, is funded by a $228,500 grant from the Templeton Religion Trust.

In 2022, Edman was appointed to the American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives, which serves as the governing body of the world’s largest association of psychologists. He also serves on the executive committee for his division, which focuses upon the psychology of religion and spirituality.

PSY100SS - Exploring Psychology

(4 credits) (NWCore option under Self and Society) In this course students learn how, using methodologies such as observation, survey and experimentation, psychological science explores the causes and consequences of human action. An overview of major findings from the field of psychology such as biological bases of behavior, learning and memory, motivation and emotion, human development, personality, intelligence, psychopathology and therapy, the effect of others on individuals will be discussed and students will be encouraged to apply this knowledge to their own views and actions. Students will consider why the integration of faith and science in understanding humans is important and will explore ways of accomplishing this integration.

PSY215 - Research Design and Introductory Statistics

(4 credits) This course acquaints the student with basic empirical research techniques in the behavioral sciences including political science, psychology, social work and sociology. The course aims to enable the student to function as a conductor and a consumer of behavioral science research. Techniques include: observation, questionnaire and survey, interview, single-subject designs, qualitative research, and experimental and quasi-experimental methodologies. Topics include: descriptive and basic inferential statistics, sampling methods and research ethics. Prerequisites: PSY100SS, SOC101SS, PSC101SS, or PSC105SS, and fulfillment of the Quantitative Resoning requirement.

PSY216WI - Research Design and Advanced Statistics

(4 credits) (Writing intensive) Skills in statistical analysis and interpretation of psychological research are developed in this course with emphasis on correlation, regression and analysis of variance. Basic skills learned in Research Methods I are extended through practice in conducting, analyzing and reporting research using statistical software such as SPSS. Prerequisite: PSY215.

PSY315 - Learning and Cognition

(4 credits, alternate years, consult department) An introduction to the topics of learning, memory and cognition within the field of experimental psychology. An emphasis will be placed on approaching problems as an "experimental psychologist." Advantages and limitations of the experimental approach and applications of the knowledge base of experimental psychology will be highlighted. Prerequisites: PSY100SS and 215.

PSY402 - Introduction to Clinical and Counseling Psychology

(2 credits, non-yearly, consult department) This advanced seminar provides a first exposure to the theory and practice of clinical and counseling psychology. This exposure will include the history of clinical psychology and counseling psychology, the current state of the profession, ethical dilemmas, and controversies within the field. We will also touch on theories of psychotherapy, as well as the integration of Christian faith with clinical practice. Prerequisite: PSY100SS and four additional credits in psychology.

PSY406 - Psychology Research Lab

(4 credits) As a culminating experience, senior students conduct a semester-long empirical research project and produce an APA-formatted report. This is substantive project that allows the student to individually explore a self-selected research topic in depth and to experience the research process from initial idea to finished publication-ready manuscript. It challenges the student to think creatively, to integrate knowledge and skills obtained throughout the psychology curriculum, and to produce a worthwhile contribution to the field. Prerequisites: 20 credits of psychology courses including PSY215 and 216.

Edman, L., & Penner, M. (2022). Lived faith and cognitive intuitions: Some theological implications of the cognitive science of religion.” In Barrett, J. L., Ed. The Oxford Handbook to Cognitive Science of Religion. Oxford University Press.

Yoon, D. P., Bruininks, P., Smith, E. I., Witvliet, C. V. O., Cohen, D., Edman, L. R. O., Bankard, J., Little, K., & Johnstone, B. (2022). The relationships between positive character traits, virtues, and health. Social Work & Christianity, 49(2), 135-163. DOI https://doi.org/10.34043/swc.v49i2.188

Johnstone, B., Bruininks, P., Smith, E. I., Yoon, D. P., Cohen, D., Edman, L., Bankard, J., & Witvliet, C. (2021). Conceptualizing spirituality and religion as psychological processes: Validation of the factor structure of the BMMRS. Mental Health, Religion, & Culture. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2020.1793311

Yoon, D. P., Bruinicks, P., Smith, E. I., Witvliet, C., Cohen, D., Edman, L., Bankard, J., & Johnstone, B. (2020). The relationship between positive character traits, virtues, and health. Social Work and Christianity.

Kundert, C., & Edman, L. R. O. (2017). Promiscuous teleology: From childhood through adulthood and from West to East. In Hornbeck, R. G., Barrett, J. L., & Kang, M., eds., Homo Religiosus and the Dragon: Religious cognition in China. Springer.

Yonker, J., Edman, L., Cresswell, J., & Barrett, J. (2016). Primed analytic thought and religiosity: The importance of individual characteristics. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 8(4), 298-308

Edman, L. R. O., Feenstra, J. S., & Jackson, A. L. (2016). Integration in undergraduate psychology: Goals and assessment. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 35(2), 137-147.

Edman, L. (2015). Applying the science of faith: The cognitive science of religion and Christian practice. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 34, 238-249.

Primary author of the Minnesota Test of Critical Thinking.

Chapter in Teaching Critical Thinking in Psychology: A Handbook of Best Practices, Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

Chapter, “Are They Ready Yet? Epistemological Development and Critical Thinking,” in e-book Essays from E-xcellence in Teaching, published by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, 2007.

Edman, L. (2020; Invited keynote: delivered electronically). Rummaging around in the basement: Current issues in the cognitive science of religion. Keynote Presentation, The Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Annual Meeting, Denver, CO.

Edman, L., and Penner, M. (2019). The Cognitive Science of Religion, Ritual, and Christian Liturgy. Invited presentation to the faculty and students of Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI,

Edman, L., and Penner, M. (2019). The Cognitive Science of Religion, Theory of Mind, and Christian Prayer. Invited presentation to the faculty and students of Hope College, Holland, MI.

Edman, L., Boote, P., Husbands, E., Lamansky, L., Muilenburg, R., Paauw, H., & Swain, B. (2019). Intuitions about God and Satan: The relationship of mentalizing and imagination with the experience of supernatural good and evil. The 31st Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Washington, D. C.

Edman, L., Boote, P., Husbands, E., Lamansky, T., Muilenburg, R., Paauw, H., Swain, B. (2019). Is the devil more intuitive than god? Intuitive thinking, mentalizing, and the experience of supernatural agents. The Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Annual Meeting, Bowling Green, OH.

Harris, K., Hood, R., Park, C., Milstein, G., Exline, J., & Edman, L. (2019). Teaching the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality: Recommendations from experience. The Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Annual Meeting, Bowling Green, OH.

Edman, L., Dykstra, E., Boote, P., Husbands, E., Lamansky, T., Muilenburg, R., Paauw, H., Swain, B. (2019). Theory of mind, absorption, and analytic thinking: Predicting religiosity and religious experience. The International Convention of Psychological Science, Paris, France.

Associate Director of Honors Programs, Iowa State University

Teaching and Research Assistant, University of Minnesota

Instructor of Psychology and English, Honors Advisor, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

Honors Program Director, Associate Professor of Psychology and English, Waldorf College, Forest City, Iowa

Adjunct Instructor of English, University of Notre Dame

American Psychological Association

American Scientific Affiliation

Association for Psychological Science

International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion

Association for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality

International Association for the Psychology of Religion

Christian Association for Psychological Science

National Collegiate Honors Council

Upper Midwest Honors Council (president, 2003–04)

Guthrie Theater Educational Advisory Board (1994-1999)

Iowa Humanities Board Speakers Bureau (1990-1999)

Visiting Scholar in Science and Religion: Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford. 2015-2016.

Northwesten College Endowed Chair, 2011-2016

Teaching Excellence Award, Northwestern College, 2008-09, 2017-18

Honors Faculty of the Year Award, Iowa State University, 2002-03

Professor of the Year, Waldorf College, 1995