Psy660: Special Topics in Psychology  Spring 12
 Evolution of Ritual: The "Miracle in the Andes" Case Study

Instructor: Dr. Matt Rossano
Office: CN 108 White Hall  Office Hrs: MW 11-12 1:30-3:30; TTh 1:30-3:30
Phone: 985-351-3663   email: (note: all email communication should be done using university authorized address)
Text/Readings. All readings can be found on my webpage under Grad Seminar

Course Overview: On October 13 (Friday!), UAF flight 571 crashed in the Andes Mountains near the border of Argentina and Chile. Seventy-two days later two exhausted, emaciated survivors of that crash trekked out of the mountains and spotted a Chilean peasent, who contacted the authories. A subsequent rescue mission retrieved 14 more survivors, at total of 16 from the original 45 total passangers and crew. The story of their survival is extraordinary for many reasons, but the particular reason that will occupy us is the fact in order to survivor they created complex society and it was the functioning of this society that sustained them for over two months in the mountains. Their story is a microcosm of human evolution. We will examine their story from an evolutionary perspective with a special emphasis on ritual and the role of ritual both in sustaining the Andes survivors and in sustaining humanity over the course of evolutionary history. 

Evaluations: Course grades will be determined by 3 factors: (1) two in-class presentations for each student based on the required readings (10pts each, 20pts total) (2) two tests given during the term (see class outline below for dates). Each test = 50 pts; 100 pts total; and (3) final worth 100 pts. Thus there's a total of 220 pts possible. 

Class presentations: I intend for this to be a seminar style class where thoughtful discussion is the norm and endlessly droning lecturing is the exception. To wit; it is important that everyone in class read and think about the material prior to class and be prepared to have something interesting to say about it. To ensure that at least one person (other than me) has read the material, and to give you all some pratice at presenting scholarly material before a learned audience, every student will have to give two inclass presentations on the required readings. We'll make the assigments on the first day of class. If two people mutually decide to switch that's fine with me just let me know beforehand. If you want to do a power point to go along with your presentation, fine, but it is not required. I grade presentation based on three things: (1) organization -- can I follow what you're saying?; (2) clarity -- does what you're saying make sense? (3) style -- are you boring me to death by droning on and on in a listless monotone? If you are boring, confusing, and disorganized you're going to do poorly on this. I'm going to give for first few presentions in the class so use me as a role model -- because it goes without saying that I think I'm pretty good at this stuff. 

Along with the presentation, each presenter will be required to submit 5-10 questions based on what he/she believed were the major points of the assigned reading. I will use these, along with my own questions as a basis for the tests and final. I'll post all of these questions on my webpage after each presentation.

Tests: Test questions will be drawn from the "major points" questions (both mine and the presenters). Tests will be take home tests. Here's how they will work. On the day a test is to be given (see outline below), I will post 7 or 8 questions drawn from the "major points" questions posted. You will have 5 questions to answer, each worth 10 pts. These will be posted by 3pm on the day before the test is scheduled and must be emailed to me by 3pm of the test day. We will not meet on the test day. Since tests will be taken at home, more or less at you lesure, I will be emphasizing organization, good grammar, correct spelling, complete sentences, good paragraph structure, clarity of thought and expression and just overall good writing. "Good writing" will be considered as important as accuracy of content. Test questions should be included along with each answer. Email to me as an attached file using MS word. I will return to you via email and make comments using MS editor function. 

Final: The final will be comprehensive. Since it must be taken in class at the assigned time. Potential essay questions for the final will be posted and I will take 5-10 of those and use them as the final. I may include an MC section, but we'll just have to see about that. Final is scheduled for Monday May 7 at 12:30. 

Grades: Grades will be based on total points possible with 90% or above = A; 80%-89% = B, 70%-79% = C.

Outlineof Topics
Date Reading Topic Presenter(s) 
1/17,19 Optional books
Intro to class; assigning presentations
1/24,26 Optional books
Andes story overview
1/31, 2/2
Evo of human culture
Ben V
2/7,9 Crawford
Environments and adaptations

2/14,16 Philips; Menkiti
rugby makes men; African tranditional self
Rugby: Evelyn; African self:  
2/23 Radcliff-Brown
Stacey S.
2/28, 3/1
Tetlock; Leinard & Boyer
Taboo thinking; rituals and hazards
Taboo: Allison B.; Rituals:

3/6 Test 1 Questions posted by 3/5 3pm; must be submitted by 3/6 3pm
Date Reading Topic Presenter
3/8 Hayden
Complex Hunter-gatherers
Allison T
Hayden; Power
Complex Hunter-gatherers; rituals and community
Rituals: Clifton M
Wiltermuth & Heath; Cohen et al.
ritual and cooperation
Ritual and cooperation: Natalie P.; Rowers: Clifton M
Shuck & Busy; Spagnola & Fiese
Family rituals and routines
FRR1: Allison B; FRR2: Stacey S
Rituals and social norms

4/5 Test 2 Questions posted by 4/4 3pm; must be submitted by 4/5 3pm
Date  Reading Topic Presenter
4/17, 19
Zeiden et al.; Kabat-Zinn
Mediation and pain tolerance
Med and pain 1: Leah B.; Med and pain 2: Evelyn H
4/24, 26
Wacholtz & Pargament; Wiech et al
God and pain tolerance
God and pain 1: Leah B; God and pain 2: Natalie P
5/1, 3
Ben V
Final is scheduled for Monday May 7 at 12:30.


I do take attendance for each class as is required by University policy.  However, you cannot rely on me to drop you for non-attendance.  It is the responsibility of the student to drop the class if it is his/her desire to do so.

If you are a qualified student with a disability seeking accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are required to self-identify with the Office of Student Life, Room 202, Student Union.

Classroom Decorum
No behavior that interferes with the ability of the instructor to teach or students to benefit from that instruction will be tolerated.  Disruptive, disorderly, or uncivil behavior will be not be permitted.  No beepers, cell phones, or other noise-making electronic devices are allowed in class without prior explicit permission of the instructor!

Important Dates:
2/16: Term 1 classes: Last day to withdraw from classes
2/15: Last day to apply for graduation
3/9:  Regular class: Last day to withdraw or resign from the University (12:30pm)
4/20: Term 2 classes: Last day to withdraw from classes.