John ShaverJohn Shaver

BA (IUP) MA PhD (Connecticut)

Lecturer in Religion
Room: 106, 97 Albany Street
Tel: 64 3 471 6459

John Shaver is Lecturer in Religion. He holds a Ph.D. with distinction in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut. John engages in the evolutionary and scientific study of religion, and has a particular interest in the religions of the Pacific. He has conducted research in the Czech Republic, Fiji, Mauritius, New Zealand and the United States, and his work has appeared in anthropology, biology, neuroscience, psychology and general science journals. John is Secretary General of the International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion, Vice President of the New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions, and he sits on the advisory board for the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study. John is also editor of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia for the Database of Religious History.

John is currently working on a Templeton funded project, which is laying the groundwork for a larger study of religion, fertility and child outcomes. One output of current efforts is a bibiography of previous studies of religion and fertility. If you would like an EndNote version of this bibiography, please contact John at the email address above.

John is Postgraduate Co-ordinator for the Religion Programme, and he also convenes the Religion seminar.


Papers taught in 2018

First semester
The Evolution of Religion
Second semester
Psychology of Religion

Click on the paper code for further information about the paper, including prescriptions and timetables.

Postgraduate Supervision

John encourages inquiries from prospective Ph.D. candidates working on topics related to the evolutionary, psychological and scientific study of religion. Otago's Ph.D. program is three years long and the university offers competitive scholarships to highly qualified applicants with a record of academic excellence. For general information on Otago's Ph.D. program see here.


Journal Articles

Forthcoming. Shaver, John. Religious change is driven primarily by individual-level Darwinian processes. Religion, Brain and Behavior. X(X): X-XX.

Forthcoming. Wood, C. and John Shaver. Religion, evolution and the cognitive basis of institutions. Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture. X(X): X-XX.

2018. Shaver, J., DiVietro, S., Lang, M., and Richard Sosis. Costs do not explain trust among secular groups. Journal of Cognition and Culture. 18(1/2): 1-25.

2017. Shaver, J. and Benjamin Purzycki. The evolution of religious diversity. Religion, Brain and Behavior.

2017. Lang, M., Bahna, V., Shaver, J., Reddish, P., and Dimitris Xygalatas. Sync to link: Endorphin-mediated synchrony effects on cooperation. Biological Psychology. 127: 191-197.

2017. Shaver, J., Sibley, C., Osborne, D. and Joseph Bulbulia. News exposure predicts anti-Muslim prejudice. PLoS ONE. 12 (3): e0174606.

2017. Shaver, John. Why and how do some religious individuals, and some religious groups, achieve higher relative fertility? Religion, Brain and Behavior. 7(4): 324-327.

2017. Bulbulia, J., Fraser, G., Watts, J., Shaver, J., and Russell Gray. Can honest signaling theory clarify religion’s role in the evolution of social inequality? Religion, Brain and Behavior. 7(4): 285-288.

2016. Krátký, J., Lang, M., Shaver, J., Jerotijević, D., and Dimitris Xygalatas. Anxiety and ritualization: Can attention discriminate compulsion from routine? Communicative and Integrative Biology. 9 (3): e1174799.

2016. Shaver, J., Troughton, G., Sibley, C., and Joseph Bulbulia. Religion and the unmaking of prejudice toward Muslims: Evidence from a large national sample. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150209.

2016. Cristofori, I., Bulbulia, J., Shaver, J. Wilson, M., Krueger, F. and Jordan Grafman. Neural correlates of mystical experience. Neuropsychologia. 80(8): 212 - 220.

2016. McCullough, M., Swartout, P., Shaver, J., Carter, E., and Richard Sosis. Christian religious badges instill trust in Christian and non-Christian perceivers. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 8(2): 149-163.

2015. Lang, M., Krátký, J., Shaver, J., Jerotijević, D., and Dimitris Xygalatas. Effects of anxiety on spontaneous ritualized behavior. Current Biology. 25(14): 1892 - 1897.

2015. Shaver, John. The evolution of stratification in Fijian ritual participation. Religion, Brain and Behavior 5(2): 101-117.

2015. Sosis, R. and John Shaver. How rituals elicit shared sacred values. Interdisciplinary Anthropology. 3: 75 - 81.

2014. Shaver, J., and Richard Sosis. Selective reading and selectionist thinking: Why violence has been, and should be, important to the cognitive science of religion. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion 2(1): 41-46. [Republished in: Martin, L. H., and Wiebe, M. (eds.), (2016). Conversations and Controversies in the Scientific Study of Religion: Collaborative and Co-authored Essays by Luther H. Martin and Donald Wiebe . Boston: Brill, pp. 168-173.]

2014. Scott, I., Clark, A., Josephson, S., Boyette, Adam., Cuthill, I., Fried, R., Gibson, M., Hewlett, B., Jamieson, M., Jankowiak, W., Honey, P., Huang, Z., Liebert, M., Purzycki, B., Shaver, J., Snodgrass, J., Sosis, R., Sugiyama, L., Swami, V., Yu, D., Zhao, Y., and Ian Penton-Voak. Human preferences for sexually dimorphic faces may be evolutionarily novel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 11(40): 14388-14393.

2014. Shaver, J. and Richard Sosis. How does male ritual behavior vary across the lifespan? An examination of Fijian kava ceremonies. Human Nature 25(1), 136-160.

2012. Purzycki, B. G., Finkel, D. N., Shaver, J., Wales, N., Cohen, A. B., and Richard Sosis. What does god know? Supernatural agents’ access to socially strategic and nonstrategic information. Cognitive Science 36(5): 846-869.

2009. Sosis, R. and John Shaver. Comment for Attachment and cooperation in religious groups: An example of a mechanism for cultural group selection. Current Anthropology 50: 775-776.

Book Chapters

Forthcoming. Lang, M., Krátký, J., Shaver, J., Jerotijević, D., and Dimitris Xygalatas. Does anxiety induce ritual behavior? In Empirical Studies in the Cognitive Science of Religion, Jason Slone, Ed., Bloomsbury Academic Press.

2018. Shaver, J. and Richard Sosis. Costly signaling in human cultures. In International Encyclopedia of Anthropology: Evolutionary and Biosocial Perspectives in Anthropology, Camilla Power Ed., Wiley-Blackwell.

2018. Shaver, J., Sibley, C., and Joseph Bulbulia. Are contemporary Christian New Zealanders committed to peace? In Pursuing Peace. G. Troughton and P. Fountain Eds., Victoria University Press.

2017. Shaver, J. Fraser, G., and Joseph Bulbulia. Charismatic signaling: How religion stabilizes cooperation and entrenches inequality. In The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology and Religion. T. Shackelford and J. Liddle Eds., Oxford University Press.

2017. Porubanova, M. and John Shaver. Minimal counterintuitiveness revisited, again. The role of emotional valence in memory for conceptual incongruity. In Religion Explained? The Cognitive Science of Religion after 25 years, L. Martin and D. Wiebe Eds., London: Bloomsbury Press.

2016. Shaver, J., Purzycki, B., and Richard Sosis. Evolutionary theory and the study of religion. In The Oxford Handbook of the Study of Religion. M. Stausberg and S. Engler Eds., Oxford University Press.

2016. Shaver, J. and Joseph Bulbulia. Signaling theory and religion. In Religion: Mental Religion.. N. Clements, Ed., Farmington Hills: MacMillan, pp 101-117.

2015. Purzycki, B.G., Kiper, J., Shaver, J., Finkel, D. and Richard Sosis. Religion. In Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, R. Scott and S. Kosslyn Eds., New York: Wiley, pp 1-16.

2015. Bulbulia, J.A., Shaver, J., Greaves, L., Sosis, R. and Chris Sibley. Religion and parental cooperation: An empirical test of Slone’s sexual signaling model. In The Attraction of Religion: A Sexual Selectionist Account. D. Slone and J Van Slyke Eds., Bloomsbury Press, pp 29-62.

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University of Otago Religious Studies Programme