NWC psychology professor to present research

Dr. Laird Edman, professor of psychology at Northwestern College, will present a paper at the 2015 Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference Oct. 23–25 in Newport Beach, Calif.

Edman will present his paper, “Mentalizing and Prayer: The Relationship of Theory of Mind and Knowing a Personal God,” at the conference. “People’s ability to think about, imagine and understand what other people are thinking and feeling is called ‘mentalizing,’ or ‘theory of mind,’” says Edman. His research examined the relationship of mentalizing ability with people’s experiences and practices of personal prayer.

“We found that people with better-developed mentalizing ability are also more likely to engage in prayer practices that involve developing a personal relationship with God,” says Edman. “They’re less likely to simply ask God to do something, and are more likely to worship and listen to God.”

Assisting Edman with his research were co-authors and senior psychology majors Haley Chambers from Sioux Falls, S.D.; Jacob Vermeer from Pipestone, Minn.; and Tyson Wiggers from Holland, Mich. Edman will continue to build upon this research in collaboration with Dr. Rebekah Richert, associate professor of psychology at the University of California in Riverside, Calif., and Kristen Lesage, a 2013 Northwestern graduate and current developmental psychology doctoral student at UC-Riverside.

Founded in 1949, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion encourages interdisciplinary collaboration among social scientific research about religious institutions and experiences.

A member of Northwestern’s faculty since 2002, Edman has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Waldorf and Luther College. In addition to earning a Teacher of the Year award from Waldorf, Edman received Northwestern’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2008 and holds the Northwestern College Endowed Professorship.

A graduate of Luther College, Edman earned master’s degrees in English literature and counseling psychology at the University of Notre Dame. He holds a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Minnesota.