Přednáška Konrada Talmont-Kaminského "Shared Cognitive Basis of Ritualised and Superstitious Behaviour"

SHARED COGNITIVE BASIS OF RITUALISED AND SUPERSTITIOUS BEHAVIOUR

Talmont-Kaminski, K. (1) , Poleszczuk, J. (1) , Niczyporuk, A. (1) , Wilson-Smith, R. (2) , Legare, C. (2)
1 - University of Bialystok, Bialystok, Poland, 2 - University of Texas, Austin, USA
k.talmontkaminski@gmail.com

Following Malinowski, ritual is usually explained as substitute behaviour that helps people deal emotionally with stressful situations. It is not usually associated with superstitious behaviour which, in a tradition tracing back to Skinner, is explained in terms of the accidental formation of false causal beliefs as a byproduct of learning strategies used with limited information.

We used a modified version of the methodology which was used by Vyse 1991, and Heltzer and Vyse 1994 to show that when given points on a random schedule for completing a task people generated superstitious descriptions according to which their actions determined whether they obtained points. The methodology involved playing a pseudo-game on the computer in which points were awarded on a random schedule. Three aspects of ritualisation (Boyer and Lienard 2006) were operationalised: redundancy, goal-demotion, and rigidity. The subjects were divided into six conditions differing in how often points were obtained (100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, 20%, 0%). 

Both redundancy and goal-demotion were found to be induced by a random schedule, appearing very rarely in the 100% condition but becoming predominant as points were obtained less often, in much the same way as Vyse was able to induce superstitious descriptions. Results for rigidity were less clear-cut and call for a modification in methodology in future studies.

Inducing ritualisation of behaviour merely by introducing random success suggests that such behaviour shares a common cognitive basis with superstitious behaviour much more in-line with Skinner’s views than with the motivational basis proposed by Malinowski. This claim is supported by subjects declaring belief in luck also exhibiting higher goal-demotion and redundancy.

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