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Cooperation and Commune Longevity: A Test of the Costly Signaling Theory of Religion Brittany and Jill.

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Presentation on theme: "Cooperation and Commune Longevity: A Test of the Costly Signaling Theory of Religion Brittany and Jill."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cooperation and Commune Longevity: A Test of the Costly Signaling Theory of Religion Brittany and Jill

2 Introduction Costly signaling theory of religion- religious rituals/taboos promote intragroup cooperation, primary benefit of religion  Religion ‘hard-to-fake’ sign of commitment (Irons 1996a, 1996b, 1996c, 2001) Intragroup cooperation problem: individual group members maximize gains by refraining from cooperation when others invest in the cooperative activity Attaining large- scale cooperation very difficult to achieve without social mechanisms preventing ‘free-ride’ efforts from others  Irons: religion is the mechanism

3 Introduction Intragroup cooperation more likely when individuals guarantee their participation in a cooperative pursuit- trust and commitment key Guarantee of commitment almost impossible, incentives to falsely claim cooperation high because of individual gain  (Frank 1988, Schelling 1960) Only credible commitment signals too ‘costly-to-fake’  Religious behaviors costly to fake signals, imitating religious behaviors for self benefit isn’t worth it, free rider problem not typically an issue

4 Introduction- Communes Sosis (2002): Religious communes have greater longevity than secular communes  2-4X more likely to survive  Could be due to their ability to overcome problems with collective action  This 2003 study looks at differential success of secular/religious communes with the costly signaling theory

5 Hypothesis 1. Communes with more costly requirements will have higher survivorship rates than communes with less costly requirements 2. Communes wit higher survivorship rates will be less likely to dissolve to due inability to overcome problems of collective action.

6 Methods 200 historical US communes were examined.  112 Secular Communes  88 Religious Communes Descriptions were based on the book “Two Hundred Years of American Communes” By Yaacov Oved (1988)

7 Methods Survey  50 Questions, 14 topics  For a commune to be included in the survey, at least 10 questions in the survey had to be answered 83 total communes met this criterion for the final sample- 30 religious, 53 secular  Data collected by 12 undergraduates Each commune surveyed by 5 undergrads Rater agreement correlation range of r=.68- 1 Examined “Costly Requirements” - any behavior that requires a member to sacrifice something valuable, that restricts something pleasurable

8 Methods Survey Topics  ConsumptionFamily  PossessionsWork  MembershipSocial Control  CommunicationFinances  Communal ActivitiesCommunal knowledge  Rituals, taboosMarriage  Sexual RelationshipsCause of Dissolution

9 Methods

10 Commune Dissolution  Communes that dissolved due to either Economic Failure or Internal Disputes were deemed as unable to solve collected action problems

11 Results

12 Religious covariate coded 1 if commune maintained a religious ideology, coded 0 if commune maintained secular ideology. Coded 1 if Fouriert, Owenite, or anarchist, otherwise coded 0. Population size broken into four categories (>51, 51-150, 151- 500, 500+)

13 Results Secular communes 3X more likely to dissolve in a given year than religious communes (odds ratio=.315). Fourierism and Owenism communes more likely to dissolve in a given year then the rest of the communes in the sample

14 Results Religious communes impose more than twice as many requirements on members than secular communes  Religious mean= 7, n=30; secular mean= 3, n=53. Highly significant p<.0001

15 Results Number of costly requirements positively correlated with commune duration (p<.0001)

16 Results Only religious communes produced effect of costly requirements and duration

17 Results Costly requirements is an independent predictor of commune longevity. Religion is no longer a predictor of commune longevity; the number of costly requirements explains the success of religious communes. Costly requirements did not predict commune dissolution, whether or not a commune was religious is a predictor.

18 Discussion Costly restraints have positive effect on religious commune longevity, no effect on secular commune longevity Religious communes less likely to dissolve due to failure to cooperate, regardless of number of restraints  Costliness is not sufficient to explain survival

19 Discussion Religious Experience  Neuroscientific research suggests religious and sacred experience increases arousal in limbic system, indicating that they are very emotional.  Secular traditions do not elicit this result, potentially because they are arbitrary (Rappaport, 1971)

20 Discussion Limitations  Did not control for social structures and leadership styles  Amount of info available for each commune limited due to what was written about it- longer surviving communes may receive greater attention in historical record  Historical analysis of a commune is different from studying a living commune- limited information available, historical analysis not always reliable

21 Discussion Future Research  Looking into relative costliness Celibacy is probably more costly than occasional fasting- but how much more? Asses impact of leadership styles and social structure on commune longevity


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