Martin Lang

Martin Lang
Masaryk University | MUNI · Department for the Study of Religions

Doctor of Philosophy

About

43
Publications
13,973
Reads
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622
Citations
Citations since 2016
42 Research Items
618 Citations
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2016201720182019202020212022050100150
2016201720182019202020212022050100150
Introduction
My interests include evolutionary approaches to human ritual behavior, and its cognitive and physiological underpinnings.
Additional affiliations
November 2016 - June 2018
Harvard University
Position
  • PostDoc Position
January 2011 - present
Masaryk University
Position
  • Research Associate
Description
  • Experimental research on ritual behavior
Education
August 2014 - August 2016
University of Connecticut
Field of study
  • Anthropology
February 2011 - December 2016
Masaryk University
Field of study
  • Religious Studies
September 2008 - January 2011
Masaryk University
Field of study
  • Religious Studies

Publications

Publications (43)
Article
Full-text available
The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant co-religionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to...
Article
Full-text available
The explanatory gap between the life sciences and the humanities that is present in the study of human phenomena impedes productive interdisciplinary examination that such a complex subject requires. Manifested as epistemological tensions over reductionism vs. holism, nature vs. nurture, and the study of micro vs. macro context , the divergent rese...
Article
Full-text available
Evolutionary models and empirical evidence suggest that outgroup threat is one of the strongest factors inducing group cohesion; however, little is known about the process of forming such cohesive groups. We investigated how outgroup threat galvanizes individuals to affiliate with others to form engaged units that are willing to act on behalf of th...
Article
Full-text available
Around the world, people engage in practices that involve self-inflicted pain and apparently wasted resources. Researchers theorized that these practices help stabilize within-group cooperation by assorting individuals committed to collective action. While this proposition was previously studied using existing religious practices, we provide a cont...
Article
Full-text available
People face stressors that are beyond their control and that maladaptively perpetuate anxiety. In these contexts, rituals emerge as a natural coping strategy helping decrease excessive anxiety. However, mechanisms facilitating these purported effects have rarely been studied. We hypothesized that repetitive and rigid ritual sequences help the human...
Chapter
Link: bit.ly/ritual_anxiety The near- omnipresence of religious systems across the globe and throughout human history has led researchers to hypothesize that religious systems fulfil important adaptive functions in their specific niches (Lang & Kundt, 2020; Sosis, 2017, 2019).1 Two functions have been of particular interest: promoting group coordi...
Article
We examined the relationship between religious rituals and how people perceive moral norms. Prominent anthropological theories propose that rituals charge associated moral norms with objectivity such that moral norms are perceived as absolute and independent of time and space. We used two cross-sectional datasets to test this hypothesis and conduct...
Article
Full-text available
Research testing evolutionary models of religious morality shows that supernatural beliefs in moralizing gods positively affect prosociality. However, the effects of beliefs related to local supernatural agents have not been extensively explored. Drawing from a Mauritian Hindu sample, we investigated the effects of beliefs and practices related to...
Article
Full-text available
Evolutionary theories suggest that gods of world religions are associated with moralizing qualities and impartial behavior toward co-religionists, and that secular authorities approximate this effect. However, there is a lack of theorizing and experimental studies regarding the influence of local religions on inter-personal conduct. In the current...
Article
Scholars of religion have long sought to explain the persistent finding that women tend to report greater religiosity than men. However, the size of this “gender gap” may depend on the measure of religiosity employed, the religious tradition being sampled, and socio-demographic factors. Here, we conduct a systematic cross-cultural investigation int...
Article
Full-text available
The existential security hypothesis predicts that in the absence of more successful secular institutions, people will be attracted to religion when they are materially insecure. Most assessments, however, employ data sampled at a state-level with a focus on world religions. Using individual-level data collected in societies of varied community size...
Article
Full-text available
This special issue marks the formal end to the Evolution of Religion and Morality project and highlights the overall findings with particular attention to our second wave of data collection. In this concluding article, we first briefly detail how the project came about and how it developed. We then catalogue our contributions, summarizing the empir...
Article
There are compelling reasons to expect that cognitively representing any active, powerful deity motivates cooperative behavior. One mechanism underlying this association could be a cognitive bias toward generally attributing moral concern to anthropomorphic agents. If humans cognitively represent the minds of deities and humans in the same way, and...
Article
Full-text available
Social desirability reporting leads to over estimations of church attendance. To date, researchers have treated over-reporting of church attendance as a general phenomenon, and have been unable to determine the demographic correlates of inaccuracy in these self-reports. By comparing over eight months of observational data on church attendance (n =...
Article
Full-text available
In this commentary of McCauley and Graham’s book on mental abnormalities and religions, we identify a number of challenges, and present possible extensions of their proposed research. Specifically, we argue that no specialized religious cognition should be assumed, and instead suggest that the cases of mental abnormalities discussed in the book spe...
Article
Full-text available
Evolutionary perspectives suggest that participation in collective rituals may serve important communicative functions by signaling practitioners' commitment to the community and its values. While previous research has examined the effects of ritual signals at the individual and collective level, there has been limited attention directed to the imp...
Article
Full-text available
Humans have evolved various social behaviors such as interpersonal motor synchrony (i.e., matching movements in time), play and sport or religious ritual that bolster group cohesion and facilitate cooperation. While important for small communities, the face-to-face nature of such technologies makes them infeasible in large-scale societies where ris...
Article
Full-text available
Although scientists agree that replications are critical to the debate on the validity of religious priming research, religious priming replications are scarce. This paper attempts to replicate and extend previously observed effects of religious priming on ethical behavior. We test the effect of religious instrumental music on individuals’ ethical...
Preprint
Full-text available
There are compelling reasons to expect that representing any active, powerful god or spirit may contribute to cooperation. One possible mechanism underlying this effect is a system that infers that spiritual agents are morally concerned. If individuals cognitive represent deities as agents, and if agents are generally conceptualized as having moral...
Article
Full-text available
While the occurrence of rituals in anxiogenic contexts has been long noted and supported by ethnographic, quantitative and experimental studies, the purported effects of ritual behaviour on anxiety reduction have rarely been examined. In the present study, we investigate the anxiolytic effects of religious practices among the Marathi Hindu communit...
Article
Full-text available
The present article is an elaborated and upgraded version of the Early Career Award talk that I delivered at the IAPR 2019 conference in Gdańsk, Poland. In line with the conference’s thematic focus on new trends and neglected themes in psychology of religion, I argue that psychology of religion should strive for firmer integration with evolutionary...
Article
Full-text available
The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant co-religionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to...
Article
The emergence of large-scale cooperation during the Holocene remains a central problem in the evolutionary literature. One hypothesis points to culturally evolved beliefs in punishing, interventionist gods that facilitate the extension of cooperative behaviour toward geographically distant co-religionists. Furthermore, another hypothesis points to...
Article
Identity fusion theory has become a popular psychological explanation of costly self-sacrifice. It posits that while maintaining one's own individual identity, a deep affinity with one's group can contribute to sacrifice for that group. We test this and related hypotheses using a behavioral economic experiment designed to detect biased, self-intere...
Article
Full-text available
Several prominent evolutionary theories contend that religion was critical to the emergence of large-scale societies and encourages cooperation in contemporary complex groups. These theories argue that religious systems provide a reliable mechanism for finding trustworthy anonymous individuals under conditions of risk. In support, studies find that...
Preprint
Full-text available
Identify fusion theory has become a popular psychological explanation of costly self-sacrifice, with recent work positing that an interaction between negative outgroup relations and fusion with one's ingroup which would lead to sacrificial behavior that benefits the ingroup. We test this hypothesis using a behavioral economic experiment designed to...
Article
Full-text available
Many human groups achieve high levels of trust and cooperation, but these achievements are vulnerable to exploitation. Several theorists have suggested that when groups impose costs on their members, these costs can function to limit freeriding, and hence promote trust and cooperation. While a substantial body of experimental research has demonstra...
Article
Full-text available
Male parental investment can contribute to the fitness of both sexes through increased fertility and child survivorship. The level and intensity of parental investment are dependent upon ecological variations: in harsh and demanding environments, the need for biparental care increases. Moreover, when environmental pressures increase, uncertainty ov...
Article
Behavioural synchronization has been shown to facilitate social bonding and cooperation but the mechanisms through which such effects are attained are poorly understood. In the current study, participants interacted with a pre-recorded confederate who exhibited different rates of synchrony, and we investigated three mechanisms for the effects of sy...
Article
Full-text available
The relationship between religion and social behavior has been the subject of longstanding debates. Recent evolutionary models of religious morality propose that particular types of supernatural beliefs related to moralizing and punitive high gods will have observable effects on prosociality. We tested this hypothesis, comparing the effects of dive...
Article
Full-text available
Snodgrass, Most, and Upadhyay present exciting and intriguing research on the complex relationship between religious ritual and anxiety. They suggest, based on their results, that rituals may be “good medicine” for chronically stressed populations. While we concur that ritual behavior can serve as an antianxiety agent in certain situations, we are...
Article
Full-text available
Music is a natural human expression present in all cultures, but the functions it serves are still debated. Previous research indicates that rhythm, an essential feature of music, can enhance coordination of movement and increase social bonding. However, the prolonged effects of rhythm have not yet been investigated. In this study, pairs of partici...
Article
Full-text available
Religion can have an important influence in moral decision-making, and religious reminders may deter people from unethical behavior. Previous research indicated that religious contexts may increase prosocial behavior and reduce cheating. However, the perceptual-behavioral link between religious contexts and decision-making lacks thorough scientific...
Article
Full-text available
In their target article, Taves and Asprem suggest disassembling religious experiences into events, and studying the formation and interpretation of religious experiences using the approach of cognitive science. We support such an approach and especially embrace using experimental methods to better understand how religious experiences can be generat...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the wide occurrence of ritual behavior in humans and animals, much of its causal underpinnings, as well as evolutionary functions, remain unknown. A prominent line of research focuses on ritualization as a response to anxiogenic stimuli. By manipulating anxiety levels, and subsequently assessing their motor behavior dynamics, our recent stu...
Article
Full-text available
Environmental uncertainty and uncontrollability cause psycho-physiological distress to organisms [1-3], often impeding normal functioning [4, 5]. A common response involves ritualization, that is, the limitation of behavioral expressions to predictable stereotypic and repetitive motor patterns [6-8]. In humans, such behaviors are also symptomatic o...

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Projects

Project (1)
Project
The project explores whether engaging in stereotypical and predictable behavioral and verbal patterns, that is to say engaging in ritualized behavior, helps to decrease anxiety when facing uncontrollable threats. We argue that carrying out low-entropy stereotypical actions may help regain a feeling of control over uncertain situations that might, in turn, result in anxiety alleviation.