The role of ritual behaviour in anxiety reduction: an investigation of Marathi religious practices in Mauritius

Authors

LANG Martin KRÁTKÝ Jan XYGALATAS Dimitrios

Year of publication 2020
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Citation
Web https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0431
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0431
Keywords anxiety; ritual; ritualized behavior; Mauritius;
Description While the occurrence of rituals in anxiogenic contexts has been long noted and supported by ethnographic, quantitative and experimental studies, the purported effects of ritual behaviour on anxiety reduction have rarely been examined. In the present study, we investigate the anxiolytic effects of religious practices among the Marathi Hindu community in Mauritius and test whether these effects are facilitated by the degree of ritualization present in these practices. Seventy-five participants first experienced anxiety induction through the public speaking paradigm and were subsequently asked to either perform their habitual ritual in a local temple (ritual condition) or sit and relax (control condition). The results revealed that participants in the ritual condition reported lower perceived anxiety after the ritual treatment and displayed lower physiological anxiety, which was assessed as heart-rate variability. The degree of ritualization in the ritual condition showed suggestive albeit variable effects, and thus further investigation is needed. We conclude the paper with a discussion of various mechanisms that may facilitate the observed anxiolytic effects of ritual behaviour and should be investigated in the future.
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