Individual Differences in Conceptions of Soul, Mind, and Brain

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We examined how people see the role of the brain, the mind, and the soul in biological, psychobiological, and mental states. Three clusters of participants were identified. The monists attributed biological, psychobiological, and mental processes only to the brain, the emergentists attributed the processes to the brain and to the mind, and the spiritualists attributed the processes to the brain, the mind, and the soul. Most participants attributed all states more to the brain than to the mind or soul. Beliefs, desires, and emotions were thought of as more likely to continue after death than other states, but belief in immortal souls was rare and only found among those who also held religious and paranormal beliefs. The results indicate that laypeople may see beliefs, desires, and emotions as both states of the mind, of the soul, and of the brain; that there are large individual differences in how the concept of the soul is understood, and that in lay conceptions, the idea that the processes of mind are processes of brain does not exclude supernatural brain-soul dualism.

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