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From keeping together in time, to keeping together in mind : behavioral synchrony and theory of mind Baimel, Adam Sean

Abstract

Human cultural practices are, and have always been, profoundly ritualistic. Yet, only recently has the study of ritual practices gained favor in the psychological sciences. Specifically, there is great intrigue in exploring why certain ritual forms consistently emerge across cultural and historical boundaries as they often exert potent effects on human sociality, cooperation, and cohesion. For instance, culturally evolved collective rituals often involve some form of synchronized behavior. However, little is known about specific social cognitive effects of synchrony – the act of keeping together in time with others. Here, I hypothesized that synchronizing with others engages, and fosters, our everyday cognitive processes for reasoning about other minds – our theory of mind. To test this hypothesis, I first demonstrated that participation in a synchronous ritualized task in the lab produced increases on a measure of theory of mind. In a second study, I replicated this effect and demonstrated that it could not be accounted for by general increases in sociality. In a third experiment, I tested the hypothesis that synchrony would foster ability as well as tendencies towards mental state reasoning. The results of which suggest that synchronizing with others produces a willingness to take on others’ perspectives, but not necessarily greater ability to actually do so. Results are discussed in terms of how turning to culturally evolved practices, such as ritual, can greatly contribute to our understanding of human psychological processes.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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