Title

Ingredients of 'Rituals' and Their Cognitive Underpinnings

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-28-2020

Publication Title

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

Volume

375

Issue

1805

First page number:

1

Last page number:

6

Abstract

Ritual is not a proper scientific object, as the term is used to denote disparate forms of behaviour, on the basis of a faint family resemblance. Indeed, a variety of distinct cognitive mechanisms are engaged, in various combinations, in the diverse interactions called ‘rituals’ – and each of these mechanisms deserves study, in terms of its evolutionary underpinnings and cultural consequences. We identify four such mechanisms that each appear in some ‘rituals’, namely (1) the normative scripting of actions; (2) the use of interactions to signal coalitional identity, affiliation, cohesiveness; (3) magical claims based on intuitive expectations of contagion; (4) ritualized behaviour based on a specific handling of the flow of behaviour. We describe the cognitive and evolutionary background to each of these potential components of ‘rituals’, and their effects on cultural transmission. This article is part of the XX ‘Ritual renaissance: new insights into the most human of behaviours’.

Keywords

Rituals; Evolutionary Psychology; Cultural Evolution; Conventions; Magic

Disciplines

Anthropology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Language

English

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