Setting Our Own Terms: How We Used Ritual to Become Human

  • Matt J. Rossano
Part of the Studies in Neuroscience, Consciousness and Spirituality book series (SNCS, volume 1)


Archeological evidence of the sophisticated cognitive attributes thought to define humanity – such as symbolism, language, theory of mind, and a spiritual sense – is, by and large, late-emerging (after 50,000 years before present [ybp]), postdating the emergence of anatomically modern humans (AMH). This suggests that the relevant selection pressures for these abilities did not emerge until after the arrival of the fully human body and brain. I argue that this stands to reason to reason since the selection pressure responsible for the emergence of uniquely human cognition was human-made. Human culture created human cognition. The key facet of that culture was ritual. Ritual selection pressure filtered Homo sapiens sapiens for the very cognitive attributes that made us what we are today.


Anterior Cingulate Cortex Work Memory Capacity Meditative Practice Altered State Traditional Society 
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© Springer Netherlands 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySoutheastern Louisiana UniversityHammondUSA

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