Collective Action, Shared Intentionality, and the Origins of Religion - Dr Tamas David-Barrett
Human sociality traits, in particular those that drive the way we build and maintain social relations, facilitate but also limit our ability to perform collective action. Without these traits we would not be able to maintain the group around us, the group that enables our biological and intellectual existence. At the same time, while human cultures show remarkable variation, the very traits that permit the rise of these cultures also limit the kind of societies that can emerge. These limitations not only narrow down the set of imaginable societies we can form, but also constrain our ability to perform collective action in large groups. This constraint raises a puzzle, since all known human societies achieve a feat not even remotely approached by other species: we live in very large and culturally exceedingly complex societies that these limitations simply would not appear to allow.
In this talk, Dr Dávid-Barrett will outline a framework that captures the trade-offs that these human sociality traits raise, and show how some of the phenomena often understood to be covered by the term ‘religion’ may facilitate the emergence of shared intentionality in large human groups, thus offering solutions to the limitations raised.
DR TAMÁS DÁVID-BARRETT is a postdoctoral researcher in the Experimental Psychology Department, University of Oxford, and works with Robin Dunbar, one of the pre-eminent evolutionary anthropologists of the world. Dr Dávid-Barrett is also a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, where he tutors in economics. His research uses mathematical models of behavioural synchrony to explain the emergence of sociality, and to examine how bonding in social networks may facilitate shared intentionality and collective action within the group. This approach raises new questions such as how natural structures of social networks emerge, how group identity and religious traditions may form, and how demographic transition affects the onset of modernity. Along with mathematical models, his empirical work concerns the relationship between agent-level sociality traits and the micro-structure of social networks, gender differences in friendship formation, and mate-choice dynamics.