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Title: A pure world : moral cognition and spiritual experiences in Chinese World of Warcraft
Author: Hornbeck, Ryan
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This dissertation is about moral cognition and the production of spiritual experiences in the Chinese version of the massively multiplayer online game, World of Warcraft (CWoW). Chapter 1 introduces the game, field sites, data collection methods, and the questions and paradigms that structure the dissertation's narrative. This chapter explains that during fieldwork CWoW players frequently described gameplay as yielding positive moral and spiritual experiences. Chapter 2 outlines the cognitive mechanisms – Haidt and Joseph's 'moral foundations' (2004; 2007) – that are hypothesised to inform the in-game experiences to which players attributed moral significance. Chapter 3 argues that some aspects of the WoW gameworld are high in cognitive 'relevance' (following Sperber & Wilson, 1986) for Haidt and Joseph's moral foundations. This relevance yields the game a capacity for cross-cultural appeal. Chapter 4 argues that social agencies operant in the lives of CWoW players motivated players to utilise these morally relevant aspects of gameplay as a 'religion-like tool for group cohesion' (following Sosis & Alcorta, 2008). These extra-game agencies help explain why these aspects of gameplay were cultivated in lieu of, or as superordinate to, aspects that may be 'relevant' to other cognitive mechanisms. Chapter 5 argues that reports of soul merger experiences obtained in CWoW resemble Durkheim’s 'collective effervescence' (Durkheim, 1995 [1912]) and may be understood at the cognitive level as 'flow' (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) experiences conjoined with affective outputs from Haidt and Joseph's moral foundations. Chapter 6 summarises the key points made in the preceding chapters and concludes that in the contexts sampled here, high-contingency aspects of CWoW gameplay may be viewed as Durkheimian religious rituals.
Supervisor: Barrett, Justin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology ; Cognition ; Social psychology ; Philosophy of mind ; Anthropology ; Moral cognition ; spiritual experiences ; World of Warcraft ; China