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Steven Brown (2013)

Religious ritual and the loss of self

Religion, Brain and Behavior, 3(1):58-60.

We explore the cognitive effects of three common features of religious interactions: (1) demand for the expressive suppression of emotion; (2) exposure to goaldemoted and causally opaque actions; and (3) the presence of a charismatic authority. Using a cognitive resource model of executive function, we argue that these three features affect the executive system in ways that limit the capacity for individual processing of religious events. We frame our analysis in the context of a general assumption that collective rituals facilitate the transmission of cultural ideas. Building on recent experiments, we suggest that these three features increase participants’ susceptibility to authoritative narratives and interpretations by preventing individuals from constructing their own accounts of the ritual event.

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