Ann Taves

Research Professor
Distinguished Professor (Emerita)

Ph.D., The University of Chicago
Scientific Worldview Studies; Experience and Mind; Theory and Method
HSSB 3085
Office Hours:
By Appointment
Time Period: 2020-2021
Curriculum Vitae:


For almost thirty years, Ann Taves has been studying unusual experiences that researchers variously characterize as religious, mystical, anomalous, and/or pathological in order to better understand how and why, in some cases, unusual experiences lead to profound insights and new social movements and, in others, to disability and distress.  In Fits, Trances, and Visions (Princeton, 1999), she approached this question historically, looking at the religious and scientific explanations that people offered for such experiences over time.  In Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things (Princeton, 2009), she presented a framework for considering experiences that people view as religious alongside other experiences.  She integrated the two approaches in her most recent book, Revelatory Events (Princeton, 2016), which compared the emergence of three new spiritual paths (Mormonism, Alcoholics Anonymous, and A Course in Miracles).  Her approach is summarized and discussed in Building Blocks of Religion: Critical Applications and Future Prospects, edited by Göran Larsson, Jonas Svensson, and Andreas Nordin (Equinox, 2020).

She is currently working with collaborators on several projects:

  • The Inventory Project: Taves and collaborators are in the process of validating and further testing the Inventory of Non-Ordinary Experiences (INOE) in the US and India. This is a long-standing project, which began under the auspices of the Religion, Experience, and Mind Lab Group, and is now funded for three years by the John Templeton Foundation. The goal is to create a validated measure that will help determine the extent to which cultural differences affect the frequency, clustering, and appraisal of nonordinary experiences.  Presentations on the INOE are available on the Open Science Framework at  See articles (below) for links to preprints.
  • Explanation: She is co-authoring a primer with Egil Asprem (Stockholm University) on “explanation” for scholars of religion and other humanists. It will offer a more complex understanding of explanation based on recent developments in the philosophy of science.  For a short version, see Asprem and Taves 2018.  The primer will be published by Equinox.
  • Scientific Worldview Studies: With Egil Asprem and others, she is advocating locating Religious Studies under the broader rubric of Scientific Worldview Studies. Conceptualizing religions as worldviews and ways of life offers a framework for rethinking various problems in the comparative study of religion.  A focus on the questions that religions and other worldviews seek to answer enables us to situate worldviews in a comparative evolutionary perspective and identify a core set of world-and-self-making capacities that humans share with other animals and upon which the human ability to elaborate worldviews rests.
  • Applied Worldview Studies: She is working with Stuart Nelson, Vice-President of the Institute for Spirituality and Health in Houston, to further develop and test Nelson’s Courage to Search workshops in community settings here in Santa Barbara.  The workshops, which are designed to help people explore their answers to basic worldview questions, is based on the Meaning Systems Inventory they developed when Nelson was a student at UCSB.



Theory and Method

  • Taves, Ann. 2020 (published online 2/13/2020). Mystical and other alterations in sense of self: An expanded framework for studying nonordinary experiences, Perspectives on Psychological Science,  Preprint available on OSF.
  • Taves, Ann. 2020. “Psychology of Religion Approaches to the Study of Religious Experience.” In The Cambridge Companion to Religious Experience, ed. Chad Meister and Paul Moser. Cambridge University Press. Preprint available on OSF.
  • Taves, Ann, and Egil Asprem. 2020. “The Building Block Approach: An Overview.”  In Building Blocks of Religion: Critical Applications and Future Prospects, edited by Göran Larsson, Jonas Svensson, and Andreas Nordin. London: Equinox.
  • Taves, Ann, and Raymond F. Paloutzian. Forthcoming. “Designing Research.” In The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion, edited by Steven Engler and Michael Stausberg, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.
  • Asprem, Egil, and Ann Taves. Forthcoming. “Event Model Analysis.” In The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion, edited by Steven Engler and Michael Stausberg, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.
  • Wolf, Melissa Gordon, Elliott Ihm, Andrew Maul, and Ann Taves. Forthcoming. “Survey Item Validation.” In The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion, edited by Steven Engler and Michael Stausberg. 2nd edition. New York: Routledge. Preprint available on OSF.
  • Taves, Ann. 2019. “Modeling theories and modeling phenomena: A humanist’s initiation.” In Human Simulation: Perspectives, Insights, Applications, ed. Saikou Diallo, W. Wildman, F. L. Shults, & A. Tolk.  Springer.
  • Asprem, Egil and Ann Taves. 2018. “Explanation and the Study of Religion.”  In Brad Stoddard, ed. Method Today: Beyond Description and Hermeneutics in Religious Studies Scholarship.  London: Equinox.
  • Taves, Ann, and Egil Asprem. 2016. “Experience as Event: Event Cognition and the Study of (Religious) Experience” [plus comments and response]. Religion, Brain, and Behavior, 7 (1): 43–62.

Scientific Worldview Studies

Historical Articles and Chapters

  • Taves, Ann.  2020. “First Vision Controversies: Implications for Accounts of Mormon Origins.” Brigham Young University Studies 59/2. 73-94.
  • Taves, Ann. 2020. “Discerning Supernatural Presences: Experiential Claims and Restorationist Movements in the Burned-Over District,” Richard Howard Lecture, John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 40/1, 20-38.
  • Taves, Ann. 2020. “Joseph Smith, Helen Schucman, and the Experience of Producing a Spiritual Text: Comparing the Translating of the Book of Mormon and the Scribing of A Course in Miracles” in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, ed. M. MacKay, M. Ashurst-McGee, and B. Hauglid. University of Utah Press.
  • Taves, Ann. 2018. “(Revelatory) Events: A Response to Commentators,” in Book Symposium on Ann Taves, Revelatory Events. Religion, Brain, and Behavior, published online 16 Mar 2018.
  • Taves, Ann. 2018. “History and the Claims of Revelation: Joseph Smith and the Materialization of the Golden Plates” in Blair G. Van Dyke, Brian D. Birch, & Boyd J. Peterson (eds), The Expanded Canon: Perspectives on Mormonism and Ancient Texts.  Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books.  [Reprint].
  • Taves, Ann and Steven C. Harper. 2016. “Joseph Smith’s first vision: New methods for the analysis of experience-related texts.” Mormon Studies Review 3: 53-84.

Earlier Publications

Courses Taught:

Upcoming Courses:

  • INT 200A Introduction to Cognitive Science (Fall 2020)
  • INT 1xx Cognitive Social Science of Nonordinary Experiences (2021 Summer Session A)