Northwestern College psychology prof presents

Northwestern College psychology professor Dr. Laird Edman recently presented at the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion’s (IACSR) conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Edman’s presentation, “Mentalizing, the Felt Presence of God, and Belief in Agentic Evil,” expounded on research he’s done with students on his research team, in addition to a senior thesis by 2016 graduate Jacob Vermeer. His presentation examined the relationships between the ability of people to mentalize—or discern and understand other people’s thinking and perspective—and their ability to feel the presence of God and the likelihood of their belief in and experience of the presence of the devil.

“Our research indicates there is a clear relationship between mentalizing and belief in an evil agent, and this relationship is stronger than the one between mentalizing and belief in God,” says Edman. “These relationships have interesting implications for how and why different people have very different experiences of faith, and this may have implications for church teaching and practice.”

The IACSR conference is attended by people from around the world who are completing empirical work on the cognitive science of religion.

Prior to joining Northwestern’s faculty in 2002, Edman taught at the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Waldorf and Luther College. In addition to earning a Teacher of the Year award from Waldorf, Edman received Northwestern’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2008.

A graduate of Luther College, Edman earned master’s degrees in English literature and counseling psychology at the University of Notre Dame. He holds a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota.