Psychology Colloquium: The Ritual Animal: How rituals made our world… and how they could save it
Professor Harvey Whitehouse, University of Oxford
Abstract: Rituals provide a way of defining the boundaries of social groups and binding their members together. In this talk, Harvey Whitehouse attempts to unravel the psychology behind these processes, to explain how ritual behaviour evolved and how different modes of ritual performance have shaped global history over many millennia. Efforts to test the ‘ritual modes’ theory have used a wide variety of methods ranging from field research, large scale multi-country surveys, and controlled experiments through to mathematical modelling and quantitative analysis of archaeological, ethnographic, and historical datasets. The results of this research point to new ways of addressing cooperation problems in the twenty-first century: from preventing violent extremism and tackling crime to managing global pandemics and motivating action on the climate crisis.
Bio: Harvey Whitehouse is Professor of Social Anthropology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion at the University of Oxford. He is currently the recipient of an ERC Advanced Grant to investigate the role of rituals in binding groups together and motivating inter-group competition and conflict. Whitehouse is also a founding director of Seshat: Global History Databank which is being used to explore the role of rituals in the evolution of social complexity.
IN PERSON VENUE: A08.02.217.Heydon Laurence Building. Heydon Laurence Lecture Theatre 217 (DT Anderson)