Does Goal-Demotion Enhance Cooperation?

Published in Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2014

Recommended citation: Mitkidis, P., Liénard, P., Nielbo, K. L., & Sørensen, J. (2014). "Does Goal-Demotion Enhance Cooperation?" Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Journal of Cognition and Culture 14(3-4), 263-272.

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Social scientists have long assumed that religion – and more specifically religious rituals – promotes cooperation. It has also been claimed that ritual plays an essential role in enhancing prosociality and cooperation. In this study, using a controlled laboratory experiment, we investigate if a conspicuous and recurrent feature of collective ritualized behaviour, goal-demotion, promotes lasting cooperation. We report that goal-directed collective behaviour is more efficient than goal-demoted behaviour for motivating participants to engage in ulterior cooperation. Plausible interpretations of the data and of the mechanisms involved are discussed.