Highly Arousing Rituals in Laboratory Settings: Effects of Excitation on Helping Behaviour

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Year of publication 2014
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description It has been suggested that religious rituals have significant prosocial effects, be they expressions of assortative sociality (in-group favouritism including hostility towards out-groups) or extended prosociality. Recent empirical research has started to examine specific aspects of collective rituals that might be important in modulating attitudes and behaviour (e.g. synchronous movement). Many rituals involve highly arousing stimuli and recent field studies show that such rituals can promote pro-social behaviour among participants as well as spectators. However, it is yet to be established how arousal may influence sociality and under what conditions arousal may produce pro-social or anti-social effects. This paper discusses the results of our recent study conducted in controlled conditions in Brno, Czech Republic, where we experimentally tested, using video games as stimulus, whether autonomic arousal can influence social behaviour. More specifically, whether physiological arousal (given the right conditions for excitation transfer to occur) can result in increased pro-social or anti-social behaviour (given the right prime) Our rationale is based on the Excitation transfer theory from previous psychological research which states that, if certain conditions are met, arousal elicited by one stimulus can be mistakenly attributed to another. I will argue that it is not only possible but also useful to use experimental method in the study of cultural phenomena such as religious rituals and I will use our laboratory research on the effects of physiological excitation on helping behaviour to illustrate my point.
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