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, forthcoming).
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 effect the frequency, clustering, and appraisal of nonordinary experiences.
- 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.
- 2016. Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths (Princeton).
A historical reconstruction and naturalistic explanation of the emergence of spiritual presences that guided the emergence of three new spiritual paths: Mormonism, Alcoholics Anonymous, and A Course in Miracles.
- 2012. What Matters: Ethnographies of Value in the (Not So) Secular Age, co-edited with Courtney Bender (Columbia).
- 2009. Religious Experience Reconsidered: A Building Block Approach to the Study of Religion and Other Special Things (Princeton).
- 1999. Fits, Trances and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James (Princeton).
- 1989. Religion and Domestic Violence: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey (Indiana). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
- 1986. The Household of Faith: Roman Catholic Devotions in Mid-Nineteenth Century America (Notre Dame, 1986 [hc], 1990 [pb]).
Theory and Method
- Taves, Ann. Forthcoming. “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.
- Taves, Ann, and Egil Asprem. Forthcoming. “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.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/2153599X.2016.1150327.
Scientific Worldview Studies
- Taves, Ann, and Egil Asprem. 2018. “Scientific Worldview Studies: A Programmatic Proposal.” In Petersen, A. K., et al. (eds.) A New Synthesis: Cognition, Evolution, and History in the Study of Religion. Brill.
- Taves, Ann. 2018. “What is Nonreligion? On the virtues of a meaning systems framework for studying nonreligious and religious worldviews in the context of everyday life.” Invited contribution. Special Issue: Understanding Unbelief. Secularism and Nonreligion 7/1, 1-6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/snr.104
- Taves, Ann. 2017. “Finding and Articulating Meaning in Secular Experience.” In Dan Fleming, Eva Leven, and Ulrich Riegel, eds. Religious Experience. Munich: Waxman Verlag.
- Taves, Ann, Egil Asprem, and Elliott Ihm. 2018. “Psychology, Meaning Making and the Study of Worldviews: Beyond Religion and Non-Religion.” Special Issue on Nonreligion. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 10/3: 207-217.
Historical Articles and Chapters
- Taves, Ann. Forthcoming. “Translating the Book of Mormon and Scribing A Course in Miracles: Comparing the Experiences of Joseph Smith and Helen Schucman” in Creating Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects, 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/2153599X.2018.1429013.
- 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.
- 2016. “Normativity in the Study of Religion: A Dialogue about Theology and Religious Studies” with Graham Ward. Introduction by Thomas Tweed. Religious Studies News, March 23, 2016.
- 2015. “Portrait: Ann Taves – From Weird Experiences to Revelatory Events.” Religion and Society: Advances in Research 6, 1–26.
- 2015. “Reverse Engineering Complex Cultural Concepts: Identifying Building Blocks of ‘Religion,’” Journal of Cognition and Culture 15, 191-216.
- 2015. “‘Magical Thinking’ and the Emergence of New Social Movements: Cognitive Aspects of Reformation Era Debates Over Ritual Efficacy,” Journal of Cognitive Historiography 1/2, 146-170.
- 2014. “A Tale of Two Congresses: The Psychological Study of Psychical, Occult, and Religious Phenomena, 1900-1909,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 50/4, published on line: 2 Sept 2014. DOI: 10.1002/jhbs.21691
- 2014. “History and the Claims of Revelation: Joseph Smith and the Materialization of the Golden Plates,” Numen 61/2-3, 182-207.
- 2014. “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Organizational Forms of ‘Unorganized Religion’” with Michael Kinsella, in New Age Spirituality and Theories of Religion: A Comparative Approach, ed. S. J. Sutcliffe and I. S. Gilhus (Acumen).
- 2013. “The Power of the Paranormal (and Extra-ordinary),” History of Religions 53/2.
- 2013. “Building Blocks of Sacralities,” in Raymond F. Paloutzian and Crystal Park, eds., Handbook of Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2nd ed. (Guilford).
- 2013. “Non-Ordinary Powers: Charisma, Special Affordances and the Study of Religion,” in Dimitris Xygalatas and Lee McCorkle, eds. Mental Culture: Towards a Cognitive Science of Religion (Acumen).
- 2011.”‘Religion’ in the Humanities and the Humanities in the University,” Presidential Plenary Address, American Academy of Religion, October 30, 2010, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79/2, 287-314.
- 2010. “No Field is an Island: Fostering Collaboration Between the Academic Study of Religion and the Sciences,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 22 (2010): 170-188.
- 2010. “Experience as Site of Contested Meaning and Value: The Attributional Dog and Its Special Tail,” Religion 40/4, 317-323. [Response to articles discussing Religious Experience Reconsidered.]
- 2009. “William James Revisited: Rereading the Varieties of Religious Experience in Transatlantic Perspective,” Zygon 44/2, 415-32.
- 2009. “Channeled Apparitions: On Visions That Morph and Categories That Slip,” Visual Resources 25/1, 141-56.
- 2006. “Where (Fragmented) Selves Meet Cultures: Theorizing Spirit Possession,” Culture and Religion 7/2, 123-38.
- 2004. “Religious Experience,” Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed. (Macmillan).
- 2003. “Religious Experience and the Divisible Self: William James (and Frederic Myers) as Theorist(s) of Religion,” JAAR 71/2, 303-326.
- 2003. “Detachment and Engagement in the Study of ‘Lived Experience,’” Spiritus: A Journal of Spirituality 3, 186-208.
- RG ST 18: Comparing Religions and Other Worldviews (Spring 2020)
- RG ST 101B: Religious Experience (Fall 2019)
- RG ST 172: Evolutionary and Cognitive Science of Religion (Fall 2020)