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What Makes Rituals Special? Join Us For A Google+ Conversation

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
June 20, 2013

Visit this page at 12 noon EDT Thursday to join my live Google+ conversation with Harvard behavioral scientist Francesca Gino and Slate’s Human Nature correspondent William Saletan about the role of ritual in human life.

All over the world, people employ rituals. For millions, it’s as simple as making a cup of coffee the same way, every day. Books and movies are filled with characters who employ lucky charms and superstitions. And some works explore the darker side, when ritual spills into obsession and psychiatric disorder.

Surprisingly, though, there has been little effort to examine rituals quantitatively. A study slated for publication in the journal Psychological Science attempts to rectify that: Harvard Business School researcher Francesca Gino and colleagues focused on the way rituals influenced adults’ experience of eating.

People who employed rituals before eating savored their food more and found it tastier, the researchers discovered. That was true for chocolate and even carrots. Steve Inskeep and I explore why that might be true on Thursday’s Morning Edition.

Along with the science, during Thursday’s online conversation, we’ll talk about some of the rituals that NPR listeners have been sharing with us via Facebook. Here’s a small sampling:

I walk the same path to class between two buildings because it has pretty trees that bloom and brighten my day. When it rains there are 3 puddles where the concrete has broken. When I pass those puddles I touch the surface of each one with the tip of my shoe to make it ripple. It is the prettiest part of campus. — Rhea Bumpass

Every evening when I prepare for bed, I use the exact same face cream that my mother did. I used to think this had something to do with going to bed with a clean, moist face. Now that she is gone, I know that I have done this for 30 years, rubbing my cheeks, closing my eyes and staring into the mirror. The smell, the lighting, my own eyes; and there, I have been with her for five minutes. The same thing — every night. — Margaret Rhodes Stinnett

Every morning I give our golden retriever, Jake, a drink from his favorite fountain: the bath tub faucet. Then I open the front door and say “Paper!” and he retrieves the newspaper, and we go in the kitchen for coffee and dog treats. It’s an idyllic existence, so soothing and joyful, and such a wonderful partnership. It’s pretty much a perfect way to start the day. — Claudia Finseth

Everyday, I light a tealight and let it burn ’til it goes out on its own. It is very comforting. — Richard Savedra

What sort of rituals do you employ throughout the day? We’re eager to hear, and you can share them in the comments section below. [Copyright 2013 NPR]

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