Mahesh Srinivasan

2018 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Psychology
UC Berkeley

Project Title: Reasoning about Religious Norms

Project Description:

Communal conflicts often arise over differences between religions. Within Hinduism (but not Islam) for example, eating beef is prohibited, and within Islam (but not Hinduism), it is compulsory to fast between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan. In the Indian sub-continent, such differences in religious norms have triggered communal violence, as in cases in which Muslims have been attacked due to suspicion of their involvement in the beef industry. The goal of this project is to explore how children growing up in contexts of religious communal conflict reason about their own religion’s norms, as well as the norms of other religions. As a Muslim, should one chastise a Hindu who eats during Ramadan? And as a Hindu, should one protest against Muslims that eat beef? When children encounter these situations they are forced to take a stance on the scope of religious norms, either implicitly or explicitly. The question of how children reason about religious norms is thus of great societal importance, because developing an understanding of the scope of religious norms is likely to play a key role in whether communal conflicts are prolonged or reduced over time. To address our research questions, we plan to interview children from different religious and non-religious groups in India and in Israel.

This project is one of many projects on children’s linguistic, cognitive and social development led by Prof. Mahesh Srinivasan through UC Berkeley’s Language and Cognitive Development Lab (see for more information)