- Light, Human Evolution, and the Palaeolithic
- The Role of Darkness in Ancient Greek Religion and Religious Practice
- Darkness and the Imagination: The Role of Environment in the Development of Spiritual Beliefs
- Rediscovering the Winter Solstice Alignment at Newgrange, Ireland
- Light and Shadow Effects in Megalithic Monuments in the Iberian Peninsula
- Sunlight, Divination, and the Dead in Aegean Ritual Tradition
- Illuminating Triangulations: Moonlight and the Mississippian World
- The Chacoan World: Light and Shadow, Stone and Sky
- Animate Shadows of Bears and Giants
- The Beautiful Face of Ra: The Role of Sunlight in the Architecture of Ancient Egypt
- The Handling of Light: Its Effect on Form and Space in the Greek Temple and the Byzantine Church
- In Visible Presence: The Role of Light in Shaping Religious Atmospheres
- Lighting in Muslim and Christian Religious Buildings: A Comparative Study
- Prehistoric Light in the Air: Celestial Symbols of the Bronze Age
- Phenomenology of Light: The Glitter of Salvation in Bessarion’s Cross
- The Light of the Flame: Use and Symbolism of Light and Lighting Devices in Traditional Greek Culture
- Encountering Photoamulets and the Use of Apotropaic Light in Late Antiquity
- Visibility, Privacy, and Missing Windows: Lighting Domestic Space in Ancient Mesopotamia
- Lighting the Good Life: The Role of Light in the Aristocratic Housing System duringLate Antiquity
- Thirty Days of Night: The Role of Light and Shadow in Inuit Architecture, North of the Arctic Circle
- Household Consumption of Artificial Light at Pompeii
- Industrializing Light: The Development and Deployment of Artificial Lighting in Early Factories
- Materializing Light, Making Worlds: Optical Image Projection within the Megalithic Passage Tombs of Britain and Ireland
- Lighting in Reconstructed Contexts: Experiential Archaeology with Pyrotechnologies
- Çatalhöyük: A Study of Light and Darkness—A Photo-essay
- Light and its Interaction with Antiquities and Works of Art: A Conservator’s Perspective
- Lighting and Museum Exhibits
- Modalities of Meaning: Light and Shadow in Archaeological Images
- Reconstructing Artificial Light in Ancient Greece
- The Eleusinian Projector: The Hierophant’s Optical Method of Conjuring the Goddess
- Constructing the Invisible: Light and Darkness in the Topography of Hades
Abstract and Keywords
Darkness has profound effects on human behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities. It can influence our ability to function, our moods, emotions, and cognition. Here we examine the relationship between darkness and supernatural beliefs. This work is informed by cross-cultural cave research, which suggests that cave dark zones are used as the settings for rituals from the advent of modern humans to the present. How can this phenomenon be explained? The chapter reviews research on the effects of darkness on the human mind and presents results of our own experimentation. We argue that shared human reactions to darkness, including embodied responses, stimulate the imagination in similar ways, leading to what we refer to as transcendental or imaginary thinking that lies at the heart of supernatural beliefs. Our work suggests that the natural environment is not a passive player but a causative agent in this process.
Holley Moyes is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Merced. She is also Affiliate Faculty in the Cognitive Sciences and World Heritage programs and Co-Director of the Spatial Analysis and Research Center at UC Merced. Her main area of expertise is the archaeology of religion and she is particularly interested in ritual space. Most of her field work is conducted in ancient Maya ritual cave sites in Belize, Central America. She has published over 40 journal articles and book chapters on the subject of caves and her recent 2012 volume, Sacred Darkness: A Global Perspective on the Ritual Use of Caves, won a 2013 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title.
Lillian Rigoli recently graduated from the University of California, Merced with a Bachelor of Science degree in Cognitive and Information Sciences. She is currently a graduate student in the Perceptual Motor Dynamics laboratory under Michael Richardson at the University of Cincinnati. She has published articles in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience and in the proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, and coauthored a chapter in Mishra, Srinivasan, and Huettig’s Attention and Vision in Language Processing. Rigoli’s work focuses broadly on human action and cognition, but she is more specifically interested in macro-scale patterns of human behavior and understanding patterns in big data.
Stephanie Huette is an Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Memphis and an affiliate with the Institute for Intelligent Systems, the University’s interdisciplinary research center. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the University of California, Merced's Center for Climate Change Communication. Her current research centers on language processing and how real-world contexts affect our understanding of meaning in the moment, and over longer timescales. She has published work in scientific journals on linguistic negation, grammatical processing, eye movements, hand movements and gestures, as well as visual processing.
Daniel R. Montello is Professor of Geography and Affiliated Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where he has been on the faculty since 1992. His educational background is in environmental, cognitive, and developmental psychology. His research is in the areas of spatial, environmental, and geographic perception, cognition, affect, and behavior. Dan has published over 90 articles and chapters concerning spatial cognition, cognition in geography and cartography, behavioral geography, environmental psychology, and geographic information science. He has also co-authored or edited six books, including 2014’s Space in Mind: Concepts for Spatial Learning and Education (MIT Press), co-edited with Karl Grossner and Donald G. Janelle. He currently co-edits the academic journal Spatial Cognition and Computation by Taylor & Francis.
Teenie Matlock is the McClatchy Chair of Communications and Founding Faculty in the Cognitive and Information Sciences Program at University of California, Merced, and the Founding Director of the Center for Climate Communication. Matlock is also Affiliate Faculty with the Institute of Cognitive and Information Sciences at UC Berkeley. Matlock has published over 75 articles, including a number of articles on metaphorical language and reasoning. Her main areas of expertise include semantics, metaphor, spatial language, political language, and gesture. Matlock is Associate Editor of the journal Cognitive Linguistics and serves on the Cognitive Science Society governing board. She is a standing member of NIH’s Language and Communication study section.
Michael J. Spivey earned a B.A. in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 1991, and then a Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester in 1996, after which he was faculty at Cornell University for 12 years. He has been a Professor of Cognitive Science at University of California, Merced since 2008, and Associate Dean of its School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts since 2011. He is a recipient of Sigma Xi’s William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, and several teaching awards. He has published over 100 journal articles and book chapters in a variety of subfields within cognitive science, showing evidence that a mind is the combined result of activity in the brain, the body, and the environment. Dr. Spivey's dynamical-systems account of perception and cognition is detailed in his 2007 book, The Continuity of Mind.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.