Principal Investigator: Harvey Whitehouse.
This Project aims to establish an authoritative scientific framework for understanding the relationship between group ritual, social cohesion, and pro-group behaviour.
Rituals have shaped human societies for millennia, but the exact social consequences of rituals are poorly understood. This project seeks to identify the fundamental components of rituals worldwide and chart their effects on patterns of group alignment and action. The project has three tightly linked objectives.
Objective 1 explores the psychological mechanisms underlying rituals’ effects on group cohesion and behaviour in ten nations
Objective 2 focuses on the ritual dynamics of special populations exposed to group-related violence (e.g., war veterans, ex-convicts, war-torn communities)
Objective 3 examines the functions of ritual and cohesion in cultural group selection
Overall, these research objectives aim to provide insights into key questions (e.g., what are the fundamental building blocks of group rituals?), understudied groups (e.g., revolutionary combatants), and unresolved debates in many fields (e.g., what motivates self-sacrifice?). This is a five-year project involving collaborations with anthropologists, psychologists, historians, archaeologists, and evolutionary theorists from around the world with data collection in Brazil, Japan, USA, Libya, Cameroon, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.