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Thomas J. Coleman III

PhD Student

Research Subject and Interests

My current research explores the enduring psychological connections between religion, nonreligion, and the capacity for imagination. While the theoretical aspects of this relationship are wont, empirical investigation is lacking. Rather than assume religious and nonreligious representations exist as psychologically distinct phenomena within the imagination, I’m utilizing the most current evolutionary thinking and cognitive science to test this assumption. Therefore, my approach breaks down the cultural dichotomies that exist between things typically deemed religious (e.g., Jesus, prayer, synagogue attendance) and nonreligious (e.g., Harry Potter, Cosplay, video gaming). Moreover, my research will uncover how proximal or distal the psychological consequences of engagement with a wide range of imaginative agents and worlds are from each other.

My research interests include:

  • Cognitive science
  • Cognitive archaeology
  • Psychological anthropology
  • Philosophy of science
  • Theory of mind and folk psychology
  • Nonbelief in supernatural agents


Thomas J. Coleman III graduated with a Master of Science in Psychology in August 2016 from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He is an assistant editor for the journal Secularism & Nonreligion, Graduate Student Co-Representative for the American Psychological Association Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Division 36, and a managing editor for The Religious Studies Project. Coleman recently co-edited a special issue of the journal Science, Religion & Culture with Ralph W. Hood Jr., and John R. Shook, titled “Atheism, Secularity, and Science” and is currently co-editing a special issue of the American Psychological Association journal, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality with Ralph W. Hood Jr., and Heinz Streib, titled “Atheism, Agnosticism, and Non-Religious Worldviews: Theoretical Models and Psychological Measurement.”