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Does Goal-Demotion Enhance Cooperation?

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Social scientists have long assumed that religion – and more specifically religious rituals – promotes cooperation. It has also been claimed that ritual plays an essential role in enhancing prosociality and cooperation. In this study, using a controlled laboratory experiment, we investigate if a conspicuous and recurrent feature of collective ritualized behaviour, goal-demotion, promotes lasting cooperation. We report that goal-directed collective behaviour is more efficient than goal-demoted behaviour for motivating participants to engage in ulterior cooperation. Plausible interpretations of the data and of the mechanisms involved are discussed.

Affiliations: 1: Interacting Minds Center, Department of Culture and SocietyUniversity of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark Center for Advanced HindsightSocial Science Research Institute, Duke UniversityDurham, NC 27705USAInterdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture, University of AarhusAarhusDenmark; 2: Department of Anthropology, University of NevadaLas Vegas, NVUSA; 3: Interacting Minds Center, Department of Culture and Society, University of AarhusAarhusDenmarkDepartment for Culture and Society, University of AarhusAarhusDenmarkReligion, Cognition, and Culture Research Unit, University of AarhusAarhusDenmarkMindLab, Aarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark


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