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Title: The ritualistic child : imitation, affiliation, and the ritual stance in human development
Author: Watson-Jones, Rachel
ISNI:       0000 0004 1894 7198
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Researchers have long argued that ritual plays a crucial role in marking social identities and binding individuals together in a system of shared actions and beliefs. The psychological processes underlying how and why ritual promotes group bonding and influences in- and out-group biases have not yet been fully elucidated. The research presented in this thesis was designed to examine the social and cognitive developmental underpinnings of conventional/ ritualistic behavior. Because learning cultural conventions is essential for participation in group behavior and for signaling group membership and commitment, I propose that conventional/ ritualistic learning is motivated by a drive to affiliate. Experiment 1 investigated the affiliative nature of ritualistic learning by examining the effects of third-party ostracism on imitation of an instrumental versus ritual action sequence and prosocial behavior. Individuals who do not participate in shared group conventions often face the threat of ostracism from the group. Given that attempting re-inclusion is an established response to ostracism, I predicted that the threat of ostracism increases affiliative motivations and thus will increase imitative fidelity, especially in the context of conventional learning. Experiment 2 examined the effects of first-person ostracism in the context of in- and out-groups on children’s imitation of a ritualistic action sequence and pro-social behavior. I predicted that the experience of ostracism by an in-group versus an out-group has important implications for the construal of social exclusion and affiliative behavior. I hypothesized that children would be motivated to re-affiliate by imitating the model and acting pro-socially towards the group, especially when ostracized by in-group members. Based on the findings of this research and insight from anthropology, and social and developmental psychology, I will present a picture of how children acquire the conventions of their group and how these conventions influence social group cognition.
Supervisor: Whitehouse, Harvey; Legare, Cristine H. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Cognitive development ; Cognition ; Social cognition ; Cognitive anthropology ; ritual ; imitation ; affiliation ; ostracism ; cultural transmission ; social groups