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Ritualization is a behavior that occurs typically in a member of a given species in a highly stereotyped fashion and independent of any direct physiological significance.

Ritualization is also associated with the work of Catherine Bell. Bell, drawing on the Practice Theory of Pierre Bourdieu, has taken a less functional view of ritual with her elaboration of ritualization.

More recently scholars interested in the cognitive science of religion such as Pascal Boyer, Pierre Liénard, and William W. McCorkle, Jr. have been involved in experimental, ethnographic, and archival research on how ritualized actions might inform the study of ritualization and ritual forms of action. Boyer, Liénard, and McCorkle argue that ritualized compulsions are in relation to an evolved cognitive architecture where social, cultural, and environmental selection pressures stimulate "hazard-precaution" systems such as predation, contagion, and disgust in human minds. Furthermore, McCorkle advances the hypothesis that these ritualized compulsions (especially in regard to dead bodies vis-à-vis, mortuary behavior) were turned into ritual scripts by professional guilds only several thousand years ago with advancement in technology such as the domestication of plants and animals, literacy, and writing (McCorkle 2010).

See also[edit]


  • Bell, Catherine. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice.. Oxford University Press, 1992
  • Boyer, Pascal. The Naturalness of Religious Ideas. University of California Press, 1994.
  • Boyer, Pascal. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. Basic Books, 2001
  • Boyer, Pascal. "Religious Thought and Behavior as By-Products of Brain Functions," Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol 7, pp 119-24
  • Boyer, P and Liénard, P. "Why ritualized behavior? Precaution Systems and action parsing in developmental, pathological and cultural rituals .” Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 29: 595-650.
  • McCorkle Jr., William W. "Ritualizing the Disposal of the Deceased: From Corpse to Concept." Peter Lang, 2010.