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Evolution of religious and secular medical treatments

Sacred cures and scientific cures: Science and religion in the evolution of folk medicine

Across cultures, people address health problems with a range of religious and naturalistic ways. Our project will explore the role of these sacred and secular cures in helping people endure illnesses. We aim to understand if treatments for severe and unpredictable diseases draw more upon religious treatments that more benign and predictable ailments.

This question will be addressed in three different ways.

  • First, using a corpus of >2,000 Irish folk cures from the early 20th century, we will explore how treatments vary with disease severity.
  • Second, we will conduct fieldwork in Mauritius where people commonly on religious and secular treatments.
  • Finally, we will conduct a range of experiments to explore how these patterns manifest in contemporary UK populations.

The findings will help us understand how psychological processes shape the evolution of cultural phenomena like medical treatments.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Related Research Group(s)


Culture and Evolution - Evolution and culture are the two most fundamental and powerful influences on human behaviour, and their effects are what we study at the Centre for Culture and Evolution.

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UKRI Research England

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 09/02/2021