The ISFNR Belief Narrative Network Online Lectures deal with folk beliefs of all kinds, and the narratives that are used to pass them on. The idea is that in the first week of each month, various international scholars present pre-recorded lectures on the subject of their choice which will later go on to be freely available on the ISFNR web site to anyone who wishes to make use of them as part of their research or in their teaching. The initial on-line showing is nonetheless always followed by a half an hour live on-line zoom meeting in which those who attend will be able to ask the speaker questions.
The lectures take place on the first Friday of each month at 17.00 Central European time, except during the summer months of July and August.
Supernatural beliefs between experiences and testimonies. Uncertain minds in uncertain worlds.
December 08, 2023. at 5 p.m. CET
Vladimír Bahna, PhD is a senior researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Social Anthropology, Slovak Academy of Sciences. His research interests include religion, ritual behavior, and narrative traditions, with special attention to personal experience narratives. In recent years, he has also been working on conspiracy theories. His research paradigm is evolutionary and cognitive anthropology and naturalistic approaches to the study of cultural and social phenomena.
In this talk, I will present my research on personal experience narratives about encounters with the supernatural, which was summarized in my book Supernatural Experiences and the Narrative Mind: Social Contagion of Memories (published in Slovak Nadprirodzené skúsenosti a naratívna myseľ. Sociálna nákazlivosť spomienok, 2019). My goal is to bring a new perspective to the study of oral tradition by integrating folkloristics with cognitive sciences. Using narrative material from field research in northwestern Slovakia, I will show that the similarities across personal testimonies about encounters with the supernatural and the transmission dynamics of these narratives can be illuminated by psychological knowledge regarding human perception, memory, and social communication. On the one hand, the beliefs and stories shared in a society directly influence how people perceive events. On the other hand, when we publicly share our experiences, our memories are gradually transformed into a conventional form and enriched with “traditional” motifs without realizing it. Psychological insights into when and how collectively shared beliefs and social conventions may influence individual perceptions and memories show that the underlying cognitive mechanisms are not only associated with uncertainty and innate biases to cope with it. I will argue that this creates a specific psychological niche for distinct narrative traditions in which first-hand testimonies play an essential role.