Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary

Why ritual works: A rejection of the by-product hypothesis

Candace Storey Alcorta a1 and Richard Sosis a1a2
a1 Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Unit 2176, Storrs, CT 06269-2176;
a2 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel.

Article author query
alcorta cs   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
sosis r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


We argue that ritual is not a by-product as Boyer & Lienard (B&L) claim, but rather an evolved adaptation for social communication that facilitates non-agonistic social interactions among non-kin. We review the neurophysiological effects of ritual and propose neural structures and networks beyond the cortical-striato-pallidal-thalamic circuit (CSPT) likely to be implicated in ritual. The adaptationist approach to ritual offers a more parsimonious model for understanding these effects as well as the findings B&L present.

(Published Online February 8 2007)