Where do ideas of an afterlife or a persisting human soul originate, and why are they so widespread across different societies and cultures? Shortly before his own death in 1974 Ernest Becker famously argued that afterlives are constructed as part of a fundamental psychological mechanism by which people deny their own mortality, a process that enables human flourishing but can also encourage human cruelty. Penn Psychology Professor Paul Rozin updates us on how psychology views these issues of life and death today.
An expert in cultural psychology, Dr. Paul Rozin is interested in the role of food in human life, positive psychology, and the meaning of "natural" and positive and negative memories. Using the response of disgust as a jumping off point, Rozin’s work on food includes comparative studies of food attitudes and the function of pleasure in cultures including the USA, France, India and Japan. He explores which environmental factors (such as portion control) play a role on food intake, and how certain preferences arise from cultural attitudes. His interest in the disparity between perception and reality of cultural tendencies also includes the study of real vs. fabricated memories. Behind all of this is a general interest in cultural evolution and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive.
Dr. Rozin is a member of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, has twice been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, was a visiting Scholar for Phi Beta Kappa, and a Visiting Scholar for one year at the Russell Sage Foundation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award for 2007. He was an editor of the journal, Appetite, for ten years.