Recent Research

In the past two years I started studying the structure of Christian mentality using empirical methods. My recent studies advance in two directions.

First, I analyze Jesus' social and bodily performances expressed in the Evangelical texts, using ecological psychology methods developed by James Gibson and Roger Barker. In my opinion, Jesus' ability to affect the self image of discriminated people was a result of his concrete social performances, which effectively challenged the current power hierarchy (for example, his confrontation of the priests in the temple). However, in the process of theological interpretation and canonization, his activities underwent inevitable conceptualization, and their psychological effects came to be seen as independent of his concrete deeds and of the social and historical context in which they took place. Based on this hypothesis, I try to define the principle of Jesus' activity as a reconstruction of the 'behavior setting', which made possible the freeing of people from their discriminated situations. This study constitutes part of a joint research with other ecological psychologists and ecological philosophers in Japan, which aims at analyzing all human social behavior from an ecological point of view.

The second direction of my research is the function of representations and images in religious thought and practice, especially in altruistic decision-making. More specifically, I analyze the patterns of spatial images in the Gospels and their effects--for example, the notion of 'nearness'. From my point of view, the religious experience of 'nearness' enables people to get rid of their egoism. I have begun a joint research on this subject together with Japanese neuroscientists. Our group focuses on altruistic religious behavior, in which agents sometimes sacrifice their very lives. According to the neuroscientists' view, this kind of human decision-making is based on some mental representation (what they refer to as model-based decision-making). We try to define the fundamental condition of 'religion' as this kind of excessive altruistic decision that surpasses an instinct of biological self conservation. 
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