Psy660: Special Topics in Psychology  Spring 15
 Evolution of Ritual and Religion: The "Miracle in the Andes" Case Study

Instructor: Dr. Matt Rossano
Office: SE 219  Office Hrs: MW: 9:30-11:30, 2-3:30; TTh: 2-3:30
Phone: 985-351-3663   email: (note: all email communication should be done using university authorized address)
Text: Rossano, M. J. (2013). Mortal Rituals. New York: Columbia University  Press link to amazon
Readings posted on webpage under graduate seminar (except where noted otherwise)
1. Tomasello, M. (2014). "Joint intentionality" and "Collective intentionality" from A Natural History of Human Thinking (28p
2. Cole, J. 2006. Consuming Passions: Reviewing the Evidence for Cannibalism within the Prehistoric Archaeological Record (13p)
3. Pettitt, P. B. (2006). The Neanderthal dead (18p)
4. Rossano, M. J. (2012) Ritual and social norms (16p) -- posted on my webpage under "recent publications"
5. Jones, D. (2013). the ritual animal (3p)
6. Sterelny, K. (2014). The Paleolithic reciprocity crisis (11p)
7. Zeiden et al., (2011). mindfulness and pain reduction (8p)
8. Kozhevnikov M, Elliott J, Shephard J, Gramann K (2013) Neurocognitive and Somatic Components of Temperature Increases during g-Tummo
Meditation: Legend and Reality. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58244. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058244 (11p)
9. Barrett, J. (2012). "Natural religion," from Born Believers, including "its ok to be childish" (20p)

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 peasant, who contacted the authorities. A subsequent rescue mission retrieved 14 more survivors, at total of 16 from the original 45 total passengers and crew. The story of their survival is extraordinary for many reasons, but the particular reason that it 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) in-class presentations for each student based on the required readings (30pts each) (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 at least 230pts possible. Students can also earn up to 20 points for class participation. 

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 practice at presenting scholarly material before a learned audience, every student will have to give an inclass presentations on the required readings. We'll make the assignments 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. 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 (1) 5 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. (2) An outline of the major points of the reading, a copy should be provided to each student in the class. These can be emailed to students prior to the presentations or brought to class the day of the presentation. Failure to provide questions or the outline by the time of the presentation will result in at least 10 points being deducted from the student's presentation score.

Scoring presentations: Presentations will be scores by other students in the class. A scoring sheet will be provided on my website. Students should download and print out the scoring sheets. At the end of each presentation students will evaluate the presentation based on a 10pt scale for each criteria (organization, clarity, style) and turn in to the instructor. The instructor will drop the highest and lowest ratings and average the rest to determine the presentation score which will be posted on Moodle. Student evaluators should not put their names on scoring sheets, only W#. At the end of the semester, the instructor will check to make sure that each student has evaluated at least 80% of the presentations. Failure evaluate at least 80% of the presentations will result in at least a 10 point deduction from that students final total points. Also any student who fails to have variability in their evaluations (also gives 1's or 10's to everyone) will also receive at least a 10 point deduction in their final point total.

Class participation: At the end of each presentation, the presenter will turn in a scoring sheet where he or she can give up to 5 points to students in the class who contributed thoughtful comments or asked insightful questions. Participation scoring sheets will also be posted on my webpage. These should be downloaded and printed out by presenters prior to their presentation. Presenters should not put their names on participation scoring sheets; only W#. Since I prefer that students not know what presenters might be giving them points, these points will not be added on until the end of the semester; prior to the final.   

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 leisure, 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 Thurs. May 14 10:15am

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

Outline of Topics  (MR refers to Mortal Rituals book).
Date Reading Topic Presenter(s) 
1/21 MR intro
Intro to class; assigning presentations
1/26,28 MR chapter 1
Andes story overview
1. Tomasello
Evo of cooperation

2/9,11 MR chapter 2
 breaking taboos

2/23,25* 2. Cole paper
Cannibalism in evolution

*off 2/16,18 for MG break

Monday 3/2 Test 1 MR intro, 1,2; Readings 1,2  

Date Reading Topic Presenter
MR chapter 3
social complexity

3. Pettitt review
Did Neanderthals bury their dead?

3/16,18 MR Chapter 4
Ritual and daily life

4. Rossano Psych bull paper
Rituals and social norms

Chapter 5
Rituals and social bonding

5. Jones ritual animal
6. Sterelny reciprocity crisis
Rituals and social bonding

*off for Spring break 4/3-10

Monday 4/20 Test 2 MR chapters 3-5 Readings 3-6
Date  Reading Topic Presenter
MR Chapter 6
Ritual and endurance

7. Zeiden et al; 8. Kozhevnikov et al. Mediation and pain tolerance

Chapter 7; 9. Barrett chapter
God on the mountain/
Natural religion

Final is scheduled for Thurs. May 14 10:15am


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:

Friday, February 13

Wednesday, February 18

Friday, March 13


Thursday, April 30