An Overview of Harvey Whitehouse’s The Ritual Animal: Imitation and Cohesion in the Evolution of Social Complexity (2021)
Keywords: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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Buhrmester, M. D., Burnham, D., Johnson, D. D. P., Curry, O. S., Macdonald, D. W., & Whitehouse, H. (2018). How moments become movements: Shared outrage, group cohesion, and the lion that went viral. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6(May), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2018.00054 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2018.00054
Curry, O. S., Mullins, D. A., & Whitehouse, H. (2019). Is it good to cooperate?: Testing the theory of morality-as-cooperation in 60 societies. Current Anthropology, 60(1), 47–69. https://doi.org/10.1086/701478 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/701478
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Kavanagh, C. M., Jong, J., McKay, R., & Whitehouse, H. (2018). Positive experiences of high arousal martial arts rituals are linked to identity fusion and costly pro-group actions. European Journal of Social Psychology, 49(3), 461–481. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2514 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2514
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Swann, W. B., Gómez, Á., Seyle, D. C., Morales, J. F., & Huici, C. (2009). Identity fusion: The interplay of personal and social identities in extreme group behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(5), 995–1011. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013668 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013668
Tasuji, T., Reese, E., van Mulukom, V., & Whitehouse, H. (2020). Band of mothers: Childbirth as a female bonding experience. PLoS ONE, 15(10), e0240175. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240175 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240175
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Turchin, P., Brennan, R., Currie, T., Feeney, K., Francois, P., Hoyer, D., Manning, J., Marciniak, A., Mullins, D., Palmisano, A., Peregrine, P., Turner, E., & Whitehouse, H. (2015). Seshat: The Global History Databank. Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution, 6(1), 77–107. https://doi.org/10.21237/C7CLIO6127917 DOI: https://doi.org/10.21237/C7CLIO6127917
Watson-Jones, R. E., Whitehouse, H., & Legare, C. H. (2016). In-group ostracism increases high-fidelity imitation in early childhood. Psychological Science, 27(1), 34–42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615607205 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615607205
Whitehouse, H. (1995). Inside the cult: Religious innovation and transmission in Papua New Guinea. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
———. (2004). Modes of religiosity: A cognitive theory of religious transmission. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
———. (2021). The ritual animal: Imitation and cohesion in the evolution of social complexity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Whitehouse, Harvey, Jong, J., Buhrmester, M. D., Gómez, Á., Bastian, B., Kavanagh, C. M., Newson, M., Matthews, M., Lanman, J., McKay, R., & Gavrilets, S. (2017). The evolution of extreme cooperation via shared dysphoric experiences. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep44292 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/srep44292
Whitehouse, Harvey, McQuinn, B., Buhrmester, M., & Swann, W. B. (2014). Brothers in arms: Libyan revolutionaries bond like family. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(50), 17783–17785. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-6373-2_49 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1416284111
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