An Overview of Harvey Whitehouse’s The Ritual Animal: Imitation and Cohesion in the Evolution of Social Complexity (2021)


  • Robert Jagiello Oxford University



ritual and religion, cooperation and sociality, evolution of social complexity, psychology of social learning


In the book The Ritual Animal: Imitation and Cohesion in the Evolution of Social Complexity (2021), Harvey Whitehouse presents an interdisciplinary approach to the study of ritual that is remarkable in range and versatility. Embedded in evolutionary principles, his theories hold vast explanatory potential, asking pertinent questions about the evolutionary functions and psychological substrates of ritual behaviour and its pivotal role in the origins of cultural and social complexity. Moreover, he compellingly discusses how the research outlined, resulting from many collaborations over several decades, can serve as a basis for meaningful policy making as well as the bridging of various fields within academia, hence demonstrating its potential for making contributions toward some of the most pressing issues currently faced by humanity.


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Book Panel

How to Cite

Jagiello, R. (2022). An Overview of Harvey Whitehouse’s The Ritual Animal: Imitation and Cohesion in the Evolution of Social Complexity (2021). Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 8(2), 102–114.