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Transmissive Frequency, Ritual, and Exegesis

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Certain aspects of the relations between ritual action and ritual meaning are determined by socially regulated cycles of transmissive frequency, via the highly structured operations of human memory. Evidence is presented in this article that: (i) the relative scarcity of spontaneous exegetical reflection and the relatively wide dissemination of standard official exegesis in routinized traditions, may be explained by the dynamics of implicit procedural memory and the opportunities afforded by repetition for the spread of stable theological/exegetical representations encoded in semantic memory; (ii) the relative scarcity or restricted distribution of official exegesis and the relatively high degree of elaboration of spontaneous exegetical reflection in rare and climactic rituals, may be explained by the dynamics of episodic memory. These arguments are shown to have potentially significant implications for epidemiological perspectives on cognition and religion.

Affiliations: 1: The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland


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