I’ve talked before about the power of ritual, but while powerful, it also seemed piecemeal. That is, there were lots of hints, but not a coherent theory. That has now changed. I recently found a paper by Nicholas Hobson & colleagues (Schroeder, Risen, Xylagatas, & Inzlicht; warning, PDF) titled The Psychology of Rituals that creates an integrated framework. And while my take simplifies it down, I found it interesting.

At core, what the model suggests is that there are two components that are linked together. The first element are things that involve the senses. The second element are the semantics we’re looking to create allegiance and adherence too. And there are important elements about this relationship.

There are a number of elements that are on tap for involving the senses. Certain movements, sounds, and words said or to be spoken can be used. There can also be food, drink, smells, and more. Objects also. Timing is an element; at the micro level of things in order, and at the macro level of the triggers for the ritual.

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