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Rituals and Solidarity: The Effects of Synchrony and Complementarity on Cooperation

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-1-83867-504-2, eISBN: 978-1-83867-503-5

Publication date: 2 September 2019


In this study we aim to examine a Durkheimian solution to the problem of social cooperation. Drawing on relevant literature on rituals and social solidarity, we make a case that both synchronous and complementary ritualistic acts can promote social cooperation by strengthening solidarity.

We used a lab experiment in which participants performed either synchronous, complementary, or uncoordinated group drumming. After the drumming, they self-reported their positive affect, feeling of being in the same group and trust. Then they played a five-round public goods game in which their levels of cooperation were observed.

We found both synchrony and complementarity help sustain group cooperation. Participants who drummed synchronously or complementarily contributed more to the public good than those in the baseline condition, especially in later rounds of the game. Individuals in the synchronous and complementary conditions also showed stronger feelings of being in the same group. Mediation analysis confirmed that the effects of ritual performance on cooperation are partially mediated by feelings of same-groupness.

Results of our study imply that ritual performance based on either members’ similarities or complementary differences can promote group solidarity and cooperation.

The study supports the classic Durkheimian solution to the problem of social cooperation. Consistent with recent research, we find the causal effect of synchrony on cooperation. Moreover, our new test of the effect of complementarity shows that being different but mutually supportive can effectively enhance solidarity and cooperation as well.




This work received financial support from the National Social Science Fund of China (Grant No. 15BSH011).


Liu, Y. and Tao, L. (2019), "Rituals and Solidarity: The Effects of Synchrony and Complementarity on Cooperation", Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 95-115.



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