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Ritual

Rituals are complex, socially scripted behaviors that facilitate collective, coordinated activity within groups. They are pervasive features of all human cultures and include social behaviors that range from rites of passage, to elaborate ceremonies, to everyday greetings. The content of rituals varies considerably across the world; however, the structure and functions of ritual are universal. Rituals are (a) socially stipulated (ritual is not the product of individual innovation), (b) causally opaque (the actions have no direct observable connection to the intended outcome), and (c) group conventions. The combination of social stipulation and causal opacity inhibits individual-level innovation and makes rituals ideal for faithful transmission from one generation to the next. In this entry, we describe the functions of rituals in social groups across the life ...

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