Religious Studies

Claire White, Ph.D.

Claire White
(818) 677-5640
Office location:
Santa Susana Hall 236


Dr. Claire White is a Professor at California State University, Northridge. She joined the Religious Studies Department in 2012 from Northern Ireland. Dr. White holds the first tenured position in an area called "the cognitive science of religion" in a religious studies department in the United States.  

Dr. White earned her Ph.D. in Cognition and Culture in 2008 at Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland.


Dr. White's research focuses on answering two questions about human culture. First, how and why do some practices in different parts of the world share common features, such as mortuary rituals? Second, how do these practices impact human behavior and well-being, such as facilitating grief? She adopts an interdisciplinary approach and employs different methods to address these questions, including participant-observation, semi-structured interviews, structured surveys, and experiments.


Co-Chair, Cognitive Science of Religion Group, American Academy of Religion (until 2019)

Secretary-General, International Association for the Cognitive and Evolutionary Science of Religion (present).



White, C., (2021). An Introduction to the Cognitive Science of Religion: Connecting Evolution, Brain, Cognition, and Culture. London: Routledge. 

Representative Journal articles:

White, C. & Fessler, M.T. (2018). An Evolutionary Account of Vigilance in Grief. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 1, 34-42.

White, C., Marin, M. & Fessler, M.T. (2017). Not Just Dead Meat: An Evolutionary Account of Corpse Treatment in Mortuary Rituals. The Journal of Cognition and Culture, 17, 1-23.

White, C. & Fessler, M.T., & Gomez, P. (2016). The effects of Corpse Viewing and Corpse Condition on Vigilance for Deceased Loved Ones. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37, 517-522.

White, C. (2016). Cross-cultural Similarities in Reasoning about Personal Continuity in Reincarnation: Evidence from South India. Religion, Brain, and Behavior, 6, 2, 130-153.

White, C., Kelly, B., & Nichols, S. (2015). Remembering Past Lives: Intuitions about Memory and Personal Identity in Reincarnation. In Cruz, H. & Nichols, R. (Eds.) The Cognitive Science of Religion and its Philosophical Implications, 169-196. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

*For a full list of my research publications, please see the link to my personal website.

My overall research vision is represented in this New York Times article: