The second-largest grant ever awarded by the foundation will fund the efforts of psychologist Rebekah Richert to get the Developing Belief Network up and running. In its initial phase, the project will consider proposals focused on the creation of a network of between twelve and twenty-four research sites around the world dedicated to the role of religion in children's lives, including how children form an understanding of supernatural entities and phenomena; how those beliefs relate to children's understanding of science and medicine; and how children form ideas and stereotypes about people from their own and other religious groups, as well as how those stereotypes influence social interactions.
According to the university, a number of researchers are already engaged in such research, but they are not formally linked and lack diversity of perspective as well as a shared methodology. Over the next five years, participating researchers will join forces to build a large dataset and video library and raise additional funding to sustain the collaborative.
"Childhood is a critical time to understand how religious beliefs form," said Richert, an associate professor of psychology at UCR and director of the Childhood Cognition Lab who in 2018 received a grant of $234,000 from the foundation to scope the project. "Most of what we know is based on children in Western civilizations. This will add so much more richness."
"Despite the ubiquity of religious beliefs and practices across human cultures and human history, most developmental psychologists have neglected such topics until now," said Nicholas Gibson, the foundation's director of human sciences. "What is known has been constrained by a focus on Western societies, a paucity of longitudinal research designs, and a limited set of measures appropriate for cross-cultural research. This ambitious five-year program is a major step toward addressing all of these issues."