Does ritual behavior decrease anxiety?

More than a century ago, Bronislaw Malinowski claimed that ritual behavior decreases anxiety induced by the prospect of uncontrollable threats. Martin Lang and Jan Krátký (together with Dimitris Xygalatas) tested this notion experimentally in a Marathi community on Mauritius and recently published their results in a monothematic issue “Ritual renaissance: new insights into the most human of behaviours“ of the prestigious journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

29 Jun 2020

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Using a public speech paradigm, they found out that participants dealing with stress via habitual ritual performed in a local temple showed lower levels of perceived and physiological anxiety than participants that were relaxing in a non-religious location. Authors also discuss future directions that the evolutionary research on ritual could further develop.

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