The origin and spread of novel rituals

Event Details:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
ECA A101


Religious ritual is omnipresent in human societies, but unique to our species. Functional explanations of the phenomenon often ignore the most puzzling parts of ritual: its origins. Why and how does a population adopt a new ritual given the costs associated with the activity and its inefficacy? A new, 4 year old, apparition of Jesus that has spawned a yearly festival in the Peruvian Altiplano provides a rare opportunity to test competing hypotheses about the origins and spread of religious ritual. Using data from over 600 interviews with residents in 4 districts in the region, we will examine who adopts new religious practices, and the mechanisms that lead to its persistence and spread.


Cristina is an Assistant Prof. of Evolutionary Anthropology at UC Davis. She enjoys puzzling over why people do weird things (compared to other animals), for example, why they have few children, create arbitrary group boundaries, and adopt new religious practices. Cristina received her PhD in anthropology from UCLA before going undercover in departments of Population Health; Psychology; Human Evolutionary Biology; and Human Behavior, Ecology & Culture.