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Research Summary


The two courses that I teach at Oxford are closely related to my research interests: Developmental Questions in Science and Religion (Experimental Psychology) and Psychology of Religion to undergraduates in Theology and Philosophy.


Olivera Petrovich

BA, MSc, DPhil

Research Fellow (Wolfson College)


My research deals with the origin and development of natural religious understanding. I focus especially on the concept of God in order to see what about this concept might be independent of any specific cultural and educational input.

I study children’s (and adults’) concepts of God as an aspect of their causal understanding. This means asking what specific information, if any, in their everyday physical environment enables them to infer a concept of God as a distinct causal agent. A similar approach in the history of science was taken by the founding fellows of the Royal Society who saw God as a natural theological concept.

I am also interested in how religious and scientific concepts interact in pre-school years and throughout development. Psychologists have carried out substantial research into children’s scientific concepts and thereby contributed to educational policies and practices in core science subjects. Much less work exists on children’s early understanding of the concept of God and how this concept might relate to their other causal concepts. Knowing how and when children begin to use this concept first in their everyday understanding of the world would allow us to influence educational policies in religious education.

In trying to answer some of the questions above, I have carried out research with children of pre-school and primary school age as well as adults from different cultures and religious backgrounds and different faith and state schools. Some of the findings I have so far presented in summary reports and conference presentations but a detailed report is in preparation. How different causal concepts are employed in understanding the theory of evolution (and creationism) is also a work in progress.

My other interest concerns the perception of psychology as a science among other scientists engaged in the science-religion dialogue and I have participated in a number of workshops and conferences both in the UK and internationally.



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Recent Publications

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