Religious Studies

Claire White

Associate Professor
(818) 677-5640
Office location:
Santa Susana Hall 236


Dr White is an Associate Professor at California State University, Northridge and joined the Religious Studies Department in 2012. She previously worked in Queen's University, Belfast, King's College, London and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge teaching religion and psychology from an interdisciplinary perspective. Promoting the scientific study of religion, Dr White is part of a relatively new approach known as the cognitive science of religion.

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


Dr White is a research psychologist with a vested interest in cognition and culture and the cognitive science of religion. She adopts an interdisciplinary approach to religon, using the approaches of the evolutionary and cognitive sciences to understand human thought and behavior, especially folk concepts of personal continuity and representations of the afterlife.


Co-Chair, Cognitive Science of Religion Group, American Academy of Religion. 

Executive Committee Member, Member at Large, International Association for the Cognitive Science of Religion.


Journal articles:

White, C. & Fessler, M.T. (In press). An Evolutionary Account of Vigilance in Grief. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.

White, C., Kinsella, M. & Bering, J.M. (In press). How to Know You've Survived Death: A Cognitive Account of the Popularity of Contemporary Post-mortem Survival Narratives. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion.

White, C. (2017). Who Wants to Live Forever? Explaining the Cross-Cultural Recurrence of Reincarnation Beliefs. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 17, 1-18.

Murray, D., Fessler, M.T., Kerry, N., White, C. & Marin, M. (2017). The Kiss of Death: Three Tests of the Relationship Between Disease Threat and Physical Contact Within Traditional Cultures. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38, 1, 63-70.

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). The Cognitive Foundations of Reincarnation. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, 1-23.

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. (2015). Establishing Personal Identity in Reincarnation: Minds and Bodies Reconsidered. The Journal of Cognition and Culture. 15, 402-429. White, C., & Fessler, M.T. (2013). Evolutionizing Grief: Viewing Photographs of the Deceased Predicts the Misattribution of Ambiguous Stimuli by the Bereaved. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 1084-1100.

Book chapters:

White, C., (Forthcoming). Mortuary Practices. In Barrett, J.L. Handbook for the Cognitive Science of Religion. Oxford University Press.

White, C., (Forthcoming). You Again? Establishing Personal Identity in Reincarnation. In Slone, J. (2018). Empirical Studies in the Cognitive Science of Religion. London: Bloomsbury.

White, C. (In press). What does the Cognitive Science of Religion Explain? In Van Eyghen, H., Peels, R., van den Brink, G. (2018). New Developments in the Cognitive Science of Religion: the Rationality of Religious Belief. London: Springer.

White, C. (2017). What the Cognitive Science of Religion is and is Not. In Hughes, A. (Ed.) Theory in a Time of Excess: The Case of the Academic Study of Religion, 95-138. Sheffield: Equiniox.

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.