Ritualization increases the perceived efficacy of actions

Even though rituals often lack a clear causal link between an action and its goal, they tend to be perceived as causally effective due to their structural similarity to instrumental actions. Are these intuitions dependent on cultural representations of supernatural agents, or are they perceived as effective by themselves?

7 Jul 2021

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An experiment in which participants watched video clips of basketball players throwing the ball showed that ritualization—which players spontaneously perform prior to the throw—increases the expectation that it would be successful in the eyes of the observing participants. The results suggest that ritualization can influence the expectations about actions even outside of religious contexts. Moreover, the effect was observed both among participants that do not watch basketball games and participants that are basketball experts, suggesting that the effect of ritualization is judged via an intuitive and automatic heuristic.

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