Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Associate Professor Jesse Bering

JesseBering2

Director

Email jesse.bering@otago.ac.nz
Tel 64 3 471 6147

Jesse Bering is a research psychologist and Director of the Centre for Science Communication. An award-winning science writer specializing in human behaviour, his first book, The Belief Instinct (2011), was included on the American Library Association’s Top 25 Books of the Year. This was followed by a collection of his previously published essays, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? (2012), and Perv (2013), a taboo-breaking work that received widespread critical acclaim and was named as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. His most recent book, Suicidal, will be released in late 2018 (published in the UK as A Very Human Ending). All of his books have been translated into many different languages.

An experimental psychologist by training, Bering’s primary research area is the cognitive science of religion and he has published extensively in that field. His work has centred on the cognitive underpinnings of afterlife beliefs, as well as how we ascribe meaning and purpose to life events as a consequence of our species’ evolved psychology, most notably as an artifact of our theory of mind. More recently, using controlled studies he has begun to explore people’s ability to cognitively reconcile religious and scientific beliefs when they are faced directly with experiences or information that challenge their worldviews.

As a practicing science communicator, Bering and his work have been featured in numerous documentaries, TV shows, and radio programs, including Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, Conan, Chelsea Lately, Q&A (Australia), NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and the BBC. In addition to writing extensively for Scientific American and Slate magazines, his essays and opinion pieces have also appeared in Playboy, The New York Times, The Guardian, Discover, Vice, and others. To learn more, visit www.jessebering.com


Current Teaching


Research Interests


  • Cognitive science and religion
  • Human sexuality
  • Suicidology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Social psychology and science communication

Potential Postgraduate Projects


  • Communicating controversial scientific topics in conflict with religious ideologies  
  • Development of efficacious science communication practices in prisons
  • Experimental (lab-based) approaches to social psychology and science communication 
  • Cognitive biases and science communication 

Current PhD Students


  • Evan Balkcom - The maintenance of unbelief in light of experiences that challenge it 
  • Susan Hamel - The creation and use of e-learning material in science communication
  • Manon Knapen - How do homeopathy users perceive homeopathy?
  • Daniel Silva-Luna - Awe in science communication 

^ Top of page

Publications

Bering, J. M., Curtin, E. R., & Jong, J. (2017). Knowledge of deaths in hotel rooms diminishes perceived value and elicits guest aversion. OMEGA. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0030222817709694

Bering, J., Medvecky, F., & Curtin, E. (2016). Scientists behaving badly. Proceedings of the 14th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference. (pp. 148). Retrieved from http://pcst-2016.org/

Bering, J. (2015). Perversões: Os comportamentos sexuais desviantes [Translation of Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us]. Lison, Spain: Temas e Debates, 320p.

Bering, J. (2015). [Review of the book Fuckology: Critical essays on John Money's diagnostic concepts]. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 41(6), 693-694. doi: 10.1080/0092623x.2015.1064636

Bering, J. (2014). Pervers: Seksuele afwijkingen in ieder van ons [Translation of Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us]. Torina, Italy: De Bezige Bij, 298p.

Other Research Output

Bering, J. (2014, February). The bittersweet beauty of unrequited love. TEDx Malibu. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opJ1-DzrH2U. [Research Presentation].

Bering, J. (2014, April). Kinky science: Fetishes, paraphilias, and other sexual deviances. Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. [Public Lecture].

Bering, J. (2013, December). Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. Interview on Chelsea Lately, E! Television. [Television Broadcast].

Bering, J. (2013, November). PERV: A science author salon. Presented by the Museum of Science and The Welcoming Committee, BoConcept, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. [Public Lecture].

Bering, J. (2013, October). Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. Interview on Conan, TBS Channel. [Television Broadcast].

Bering, J. (2012, August). Did we invent god? Interview on Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, Discovery Channel. [Television Broadcast].

Bering, J. (2012, July). Why is the penis shaped like that?. Museum of Sex, New York, USA. [Public Lecture].

Bering, J. (2012, July). Stubbornly queer: Sexual reorientation attempts through the lens of history. GLBT History Museum, San Francisco, California, USA. [Public Lecture].

^ Top of page

Authored Book - Research

Bering, J. (2013). Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. New York, NY: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 265p.

Bering, J. (2012). Why is the penis shaped like that? And other reflections on being human. New York, NY: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 301p.

Bering, J. (2011). The belief instinct: The psychology of souls, destiny and the meaning of life. New York: W. W. Norton, 272p.

^ Top of page

Authored Book - Other

Bering, J. (2015). Perversões: Os comportamentos sexuais desviantes [Translation of Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us]. Lison, Spain: Temas e Debates, 320p.

Bering, J. (2014). Pervers: Seksuele afwijkingen in ieder van ons [Translation of Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us]. Torina, Italy: De Bezige Bij, 298p.

Bering, J. (2014). Perv: Viaggio nellenostre perversioni [Translation of Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us]. Torina, Italy: UTET, 365p.

Bering, J. (2014). Penisin şekli neden öyle? Ve anatomi, parafili, inanç ve Evrim üzerine düşünceler [Translation of Why is the penis shaped like that? And other reflections on being human]. Ankara, Turkey: Big Bang, 366p.

^ Top of page

Journal - Research Article

Bering, J. M., Curtin, E. R., & Jong, J. (2017). Knowledge of deaths in hotel rooms diminishes perceived value and elicits guest aversion. OMEGA. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0030222817709694

Shackelford, T. K., Liddle, J. R., Bering, J., & Shalkoski, G. (2014). Unbidden confession as an evolved pre-emptive strategy against punishment: A preliminary investigation with prisoners. Personality & Individual Differences, 61-62, 86-90. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.01.010

Heywood, B. T., & Bering, J. M. (2014). “Meant to be”: How religious beliefs and cultural religiosity affect the implicit bias to think teleologically. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 4(3), 183-201. doi: 10.1080/2153599X.2013.782888

^ Top of page

Journal - Professional & Other Non-Research Articles

Bering, J. (2015). [Review of the book Fuckology: Critical essays on John Money's diagnostic concepts]. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 41(6), 693-694. doi: 10.1080/0092623x.2015.1064636

^ Top of page

Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Bering, J., Medvecky, F., & Curtin, E. (2016). Scientists behaving badly. Proceedings of the 14th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference. (pp. 148). Retrieved from http://pcst-2016.org/

^ Top of page

Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Bering, J. (2014, October-November). Does lust make us stupid? The effects of sexual arousal on human decision-making. Plenary presentation at the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) 33rd Annual Research and Treatment Conference, San Diego, CA.

Bering, J. (2013, November). Perv: The sexual deviant in all of us. Plenary presentation at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Annual Meeting: Connections: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Sexuality, San Diego, CA.

More publications...