Astronaut with briefcase

On my way to the lab.

As a PhD student in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, I study the varieties of spiritual and self-transcendent experiences from the perspectives of psychology and cognitive neuroscience. These experiences are among the most meaningful and positively transformative experiences in peoples’ lives, yet relatively little is known about how they are triggered, the neurological and physiological processes that make them possible, or how they psychologically influence those who have them.

From one perspective, my research and writing provides an empirical, 21st century update to William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience  using 1) “big data” linguistic analysis methods, 2) psychometric survey instruments, 3) neuroimaging, and 4) neurostimulation technology.

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Please visit The Varieties Corpus for more information about my work.


Obligatory Bio: David Bryce Yaden is a Research Fellow and PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania who works in both The Positive Psychology Center and The Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. His research focus is on the psychology and neuroscience of spiritual, self-transcendent, and other positively transformative experiences. Specifically, he is interested in understanding how these experiences can result in long-term changes to well-being and how they alter fundamental faculties of consciousness such as the sense of time, space, and self. He is the editor of Being Called and is currently writing a book called The Varieties of Spiritual Experiences: A Twenty-First Century Update for Oxford University Press. His work has been covered by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and NPR.


Please visit The Varieties Corpus