Martin Lang

I am interested in rituals, uncertainty, and social bonding

I obtained my Ph.D. at Masaryk University in 2016 for a dissertation on the effects of ritual behavior on anxiety and social bonding.  During my graduate career, I worked at the Anthropology Department at the University of Connecticut with Dimitris Xygalatas, and after obtaining my Ph.D., I worked for two years at the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University with Joseph Henrich.

Currently, I work on the evolutionary underpinnings of ritual commitment signaling; on the cultural evolution of moralistic gods; on the role of music and synchronous movement in human cooperation; and the relationship between ritualized behavior and anxiety.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

Chvaja, R., Chinchilla, J., Gomez, A., Lang, M. (In press). Religious costly signal induces more trustworthiness than secular costly signal: A study of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. European Journal of Social Psychology.

Lang, M. & Kundt, R., (In press). The evolution of human ritual behavior as a cooperative signaling platform. Religion, Brain & Behavior.

Theiss Bendixen, Aaron Lightner, Coren Apicella, Quentin Atkinson, Alexander Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Joseph Henrich, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Carolyn Lesorogol, Sarah Mathew, Rita A. McNamara, Cristina Moya, Ara Norenzayan, Caitlyn Placek, Montserrat Soler, Tom Vardy, Jonathan Weigel, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Martin Lang & Benjamin G. Purzycki. (2023). Gods are watching and so what? Moralistic supernatural punishment across 15 cultures. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 1-30. doi:10.1017/ehs.2023.15

Martin Lang & Radim Chvaja. (2023). Hazard precaution: Examining the possible adaptive value of ritualized behavior. In Lior, Y. & Lane, J. (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Evolutionary Approaches to Religion, Taylor & Francis.

Martin Lang, Jan Krátký, & Dimitris Xygalatas. (2022). Effects of predictable behavioral patterns on anxiety dynamics. Scientific Reports, 12, 19240.

Radim Chvaja, Jan Horský, Martin Lang, & Radek Kundt. (2022). Positive Association Between Ritual Performance and Perceived Objectivity of Moral Norms. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.

Martin Lang, Radim Chvaja, Benjamin G. Purzycki, David Václavík & Rostislav Staněk. (2022). Advertising cooperative phenotype through costly signals facilitates collective action. Royal Society Open Science, 9: 202202.

Adam Baimel, Coren Apicella, Quentin Atkinson, Alex Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Joseph Henrich, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Martin Lang, Carolyn Lesogorol, Sarah Mathew, Rita McNamara, Cristina Moya, Ara Norenzayan, Caitlyn D. Placek, Monserrat Soler, Thomas Vardy, Jonathan Weigel, Aiyana Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas & Benjamin Purzycki. (2022). Material insecurity predicts greater commitment to moralistic and less commitment to local deities: a cross-cultural investigation. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(1–2), 4–17.

Tom Vardy, Cristina Moya, Caitlyn D. Placek, Coren L. Apicella, Alexander Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Carolyn Lesorogol, Sarah Mathew, Sarah A. McNamara, Benjamin G. Purzycki, Montserrat Soler, Jonathan L. Weigel, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan, Joseph Henrich, Martin Lang & Quentin D. Atkinson. (2022). The religiosity gender gap in 14 diverse societies. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(1–2), 18–37.

Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Aiyana K. Willard, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Coren Apicella, Quentin Atkinson, Alexander Bolyanatz, Emma Cohen, Carla Handley, Joseph Henrich, Martin Lang, Carolyn Lesorogol, Sarah Mathew, Rita A. McNamara, Cristina Moya, Ara Norenzayan, Caitlyn Placek, Montserrat Soler, Tom Vardy, Jonathan Weigel, Dimitris Xygalatas & Cody T. Ross. (2022). The moralization bias of gods’ minds: a cross-cultural test. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(1–2), 38–60.

Eva Kundtová Klocová, Martin Lang, Peter Maňo, Radek Kundt & Dimitris Xygalatas. (2022). Cigarettes for the dead: effects of sorcery beliefs on parochial prosociality in Mauritius. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(1–2), 116–131.

Montserrat Soler, Benjamin Grant Purzycki & Martin Lang. (2022). Perceptions of moralizing agents and cooperative behavior in Northeastern Brazil. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(1–2), 132–149.

Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Martin Lang, Joseph Henrich & Ara Norenzayan. (2022). The Evolution of Religion and Morality project: reflections and looking ahead. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(1–2), 190–211.

Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Martin Lang, Joseph Henrich & Ara Norenzayan. (2022). Guiding the evolution of the evolutionary sciences of religion: a discussion. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 12(1–2), 226–232.

John H. Shaver, Thomas A.J. White, Patrick Vakaoti, & Martin Lang. (2021). A comparison of self-report, systematic observation and third-party judgments of church attendance in a rural Fijian Village. PLoS ONE, 16(10), e0257160.

Dimitris Xygalatas, Peter Maňo, Vladimír Bahna, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Radek Kundt, Martin Lang, & John H. Shaver. (2021). Social inequality and signaling in a costly ritual. Evolution and Human Behavior.

Martin Lang, Dimitris Xygalatas, Christopher M. Kavanagh, Natalia Boccardi, Jamin Halberstadt, Chris Jackson, Mercedes Martínez, Paul Reddish, Eddie M. W. Tong, Alexandra Vázquez, Harvey Whitehouse, Maria Emilia Yamamoto, Masaki Yuki & Angel Gomez. (2021). Outgroup threat and the emergence of cohesive groups: A cross-cultural examination. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations.

Bret Beheim, Quentin D. Atkinson, Joseph Bulbulia, Will Gervais, Russell D. Gray, Joseph Henrich, Martin Lang, M. Willis Monroe, Michael Muthukrishna, Ara Norenzayan, Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Azim Shariff, Edward Slingerland, Rachel Spicer & Aiyana K. Willard. (2021). Treatment of missing data determined conclusions regarding moralizing gods. Nature, 595, E29–E34.

Chvaja, R., Kundt, R., & Lang, M. (2020). The effects of synchrony on group moral hypocrisy. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 544589. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.544589

Nichols, A. D., Lang, M., Kavanagh, C., Kundt, R., Yamada, J., Ariely, D., & Mitkidis, P. (2020). Replicating and extending the effects of auditory religious cues on dishonest behavior. PLoS ONE, 15(8), e0237007. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237007

Lang, M., Krátký, J., & Xygalatas, D. (2020). The role of ritual behavior in anxiety reduction: An investigation of Marathi religious practices in Mauritius. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 375(1805), 20190431. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0431

Lang, M., & Kundt, R. (2020). Evolutionary, cognitive, and contextual approaches to the study of religious systems: A proposition of synthesis. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 32 (1), 1-46. doi: 10.1163/15700682-12341466

Lang, M. (2019). The evolutionary paths to collective rituals: An interdisciplinary perspective on the origins and functions of the basic social act. Archive for the Psychology of Religion 41 (3), 224-252. doi: 10.1177/0084672419894682

Xygalatas, D., Khan, S., Lang, M., Krátký, J., Kundt, R., Kundtová Klocová, E., & Shaver, J. H. (2019). Effects of extreme ritual practices on psychophysiological well-being. Current Anthropology 60 (25), 699-707. doi: 10.1086/705665

Lang, M., Purzycki, B.G., Apicella, C. L., Atkinson, Q. D., Bolyanatz, A., Cohen, E., Handley, C., Kundtová Klocová, E., Lesorogol, C., Mathew, S., McNamara, R. A., Moya, C., Placek, C. D., Soler, M., Vardy, T.,  Weigel, J. L., Willard, A. K., Xygalatas, D., Norenzayan, A., & Henrich, J. (2019). Moralizing Gods, Impartiality, and Religious Parochialism across 15 Societies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286 (1898), 1-10. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0202

Purzycki, B. G., & Lang, M. (2019). Identity fusion, outgroup relations, and sacrifice: A cross-cultural test. Cognition, 186, 1-6.

Martin Lang, Jan Krátký, John Shaver, Danijela Jerotijević & Dimitris Xygalatas (2019). Is Ritual Behavior a Response to Anxiety? In: Slone, D. J., McCorkle Jr., W. W. The Cognitive Science of Religion: A Methodological Introduction to Key Empirical Studies. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 181-191.

John H. Shaver, Martin Lang, Jan Krátký, Eva Kundtová Klocová, Radek Kundt & Dimitris Xygalatas (2018). The Boundaries of Trust: Cross-Religious and Cross-Ethnic Field Experiments in Mauritius. Evolutionary Psychology, 1-15. doi:10.1177/1474704918817644

John H. Shaver, Susan DiVietro, Martin Lang, Richard Sosis (2018). Costs do not Explain Trust among Secular Groups. Journal of Cognition and Culture 18, 180-204.

Xygalatas, D., Kotherová, S., Maňo, P., Kundt, R., Cigán, J., Kundtová Klocová, E., & Lang. M. (2018). Big Gods in Small Places: The Random Allocation Game in Mauritius. Religion, Brain and Behavior, 8 (2), 243-261. doi: 10.1080/2153599X.2016.1267033

Xygalatas, D, & Lang, M. (2017). Religion and prosociality. In N. Clements (Ed.), Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks. Religion: Mental Religion. (pp. 119–133). Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA.

Lang, M., Bahna, V., Shaver, J.H., Reddish, P., & Xygalatas, D. (2017). Sync to Link: Endorphin-mediated Effects of Synchrony on Cooperation. Biolgical Psychology, 127, 191-197.  doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.06.001

Pazhoohi, F., Lang, M., Xygalatas, D., & Grammer, K. (2016). Religious Veiling as a Mate-Guarding Strategy: Effects of Environmental Pressures on Cultural Practices. Evolutionary Psychological Science, Epub before print. doi: 10.1007/s40806-016-0079-z

Krátký, J., Lang, M., Shaver, J. H., Jerotijević, D., and Xygalatas, D. (2016). Anxiety and Ritualization: Can Attention Discriminate Compulsion from Routine? Communicative & Integrative Biology, 9 (3), e1174799. doi: 10.1080/19420889.2016.1174799.

Lang, M., Mitkidis, P., Kundt, R., Nichols, A., Krajčíková, L., & Xygalatas, D. (2016). Music as a Sacred Cue: Effects of Religious Music on Moral Behavior, Frontiers in Psychology 7 (814), 1-13.  doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00814.

Lang, M., Shaw, D. J., Reddish, P., Wallot, S., Mitkidis, P., and Xygalatas, D. (2016). Lost in the Rhythm: Effects of Rhythm on Subsequent Interpersonal Coordination. Cognitive Science, 40 (7), 1797-1815. doi:10.1111/cogs.12302.

Lang, M., Krátký, J., Shaver, J. H., Jerotijević, D., and Xygalatas, D. (2015). Effects of Anxiety on Spontaneous Ritualized Behavior. Current Biology 25 (14), 1892–1897. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.05.049.



Kundt, R. & Lang, M. (In press). Communicating cooperative intentions drove the selection of collective ritual in hominins. Religion, Brain & Behavior. 10.1080/2153599X.2023.2197986

Martin Lang. (2023). Formalized rituals may have preceded the emergence of religions. Religion, Brain & Behavior.

Valerie van Mulukom & Martin Lang (2021). Religious experiences are interpreted through priors from cultural frameworks supported by imaginative capacity rather than special cognition. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 7(1), 39–53.

Lang, M. (2020). Multifunctional Religious Systems and Perturbed Dynamics of Psychological Wellbeing. Religion, Brain, & Behavior 10 (2), 179-184. doi: 10.1080/2153599X.2018.1532454

Lang, M., & Sosis, R. (2016). Uncertain Malinowski: The Importance of Preritual Stress Data. Current Anthropology, 52 (2). doi: 10.1086/691212

Lang, M., & Kundt, R. (2016). Can Predictive Coding Explain Past Experiences? Religion, Brain, & Behavior, 7 (1), pp. 71-73. doi: 10.1080/2153599X.2016.1150332.

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