Convergent developments across social scientific disciplines provide evidence that ritual is a psychologically prepared, culturally inherited, behavioral trademark of our species. I will draw upon the anthropological and evolutionary science literatures to provide a psychological account of the social functions of ritual in group behavior. Solving the adaptive problems associated with group living requires psychological mechanisms for identifying group members, ensuring their commitment to the group, facilitating cooperation with their coalition, and maintaining group cohesion. I will examine evidence that the threat of social exclusion and loss of status motivates engagement in ritual throughout development and provide an account of the ontogeny of ritual cognition. The intersection of these lines of inquiry promises to provide new avenues for theory and research on the evolution and ontogeny of social group cognition.
Dr. Cristine Legare is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Cognition, Culture, and Development Lab at The University of Texas at Austin. Her research examines the interplay of the universal human mind and the variations of human culture to address fundamental questions about cognitive evolution and cultural learning. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in southern Africa, and is currently doing research in Brazil, China, and Vanuatu (a Melanesian archipelago), using both experimental and ethnographic methods.
This event is free and open to the public.