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Description of research and teaching

Ritual groups as complex adaptive systems: Costly signaling theory and the case of Finnish revival movements

Recent research indicates that religious groups outcompete other comparable groups when it comes to measures of longevity and group cohesion. The best predictor for this effect seems to be the number of demanding or ”costly” ritual requirements made by the group, possibly because they single out those who are willing to commit to the group action instead of free-riding. As cohesion necessitates in-group altruism, shared religion can come to function as a social insurance system. This view sheds light on both contemporary processes of secularisation and revival, and to significance of religious behaviour in our evolutionary past. Building on existing theoretical and empirical work on collective action in social and behavioural sciences, my aim is to model religious change on conceptual and formal level (with agent-based computer simulations): what triggers a change, who are most likely to be affected, and how the new group self-organises. As an exploratory test case I am studying the Finnish revivals that occurred at the turn of the 19th century, as previous research on the subject reveals the revived to have employed many strategies predicted by the signaling theory (such as emotional displays, distinct clothing and time-consuming behavioural demands) while developing an exclusive, sectarian identity.

Education/Academic qualification

uskontotiede, filosofian tohtori, University of Helsinki

Award Date: 18 Sep 2012

Fields of Science

  • 515 Psychology
  • 514 Sociology
  • human cooperation and social organisation
  • history of religions
  • agent-based social simulations
  • complex adaptive systems

International and National Collaboration

Publications and projects within past five years.