The dead may kill you: Do ancestor spirit beliefs promote cooperation in traditional small-scale societies

The Journal of Cognition and Culture Vol/Iss. 1 Brill Published In Pages: ??
By White, Claire , Marin, Maya , Fessler, Daniel M.T.


The living believe they can prevent harm from ancestral spirits.


23% were “confident” and 34% were “very confident”; n=33. All cultures (n=33) presented at least one protective behavior. The majority of those cultures (72%) had more than one protective action, with the most common practices pertaining to conventional mortuary rituals (73%; n=24) as opposed to idiosyncratic behaviors.


Test NameSupportSignificanceCoefficientTail
Descriptive statisticsSupport claimedUNKNOWNUNKNOWNUNKNOWN